The importance of learning to delegate

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There is a local restaurant near me that serves the most amazing steak sandwiches. The head chef studied in the culinary arts for years, training in multiple cuisine styles and winning many awards along the way. One bite and you’re hooked for life. But is the steak sandwich served by this restaurant the best that this establishment could possibly create? Certainly not.

To serve the best steak sandwich ever created, the chef would need to be present in the kitchen at all times. He would require the finest quality ingredients and potentially an hour to grill, assemble and properly plate each order.

Any restaurant that utilized this business model would quickly fail due to the individual demand for one person to do all of the work.

Like food orders at nearly every other restaurant, the head chef delegates the preparation of this particular steak sandwich to line cooks and chef trainees. These are not five-star chefs, so the quality of the steak sandwich does diminish slightly. However, it’s still prepared in accordance with the chef’s recipe. Even though the quality may only be 70 percent as good as the head chef’s sandwich, it’s still good enough to sell at the restaurant.

Because the chef isn’t available to work 24 hours a day, the restaurant knew that it needed to delegate the cooking tasks to other employees in order to create a viable product that people would still buy at a premium cost. The sandwich isn’t five-star, but it’s made from a well-defined recipe that can be delegated to be prepared by anyone with basic line cook experience.

Learning to delegate

Not realizing when to delegate to a dedicated team can cost you your business. When should someone delegate a task? Like a chef who refuses to let the cooks do the work, this integral question has a profound impact on most businesses. Many wait until someone else has the full ability to complete the tasks just as perfectly as they did, thus imprisoning them to ownership of those tasks forever.

The old saying, “If you want the job done right, you have to do it yourself,” may be true in certain circumstances. If you want to be successful in business though, you will realize that delegating your tasks IS your job. You have to put aside the fairy tale that one person can absorb the workload and do it all themselves.

The 70% rule

Like the steak sandwich, a product or service that is 70-percent as good as the head chef can make it can still be a viable and very profitable item. The 70% rule is simple: List out your services or products and then make the determination as to what can be delegated to other people in order to get a result that is 70-percent as good as what the most talented person on the team can produce. In other words, get some line cooks to do the work!

A big portion of the delegation process is presenting exactly what you want to accomplish and communicating exactly what is needed to get the task completed. Use your own “head chef skills” to create the recipes and deliver the instructions on how to prepare the product consistently every time. Create a task list that is so simple to follow that anyone with basic skills can execute the formula.

You’ll find that over time, your skills are much more powerful when you can use your time to develop your team rather than be burdened with all the work on one person’s shoulders.

Exception to the rule

Realize that not all products or services are viable at the 70-percent level. There will always be certain tasks that require 100-percent quality that you will not be able to delegate. But if you write down all the tasks involved in a project, chances are superb that at least half of your recurring tasks could be delegated to others. Once you learn to delegate, your work will flow faster, more efficiently and drive your business to a successful level much faster than you could have done it on your own.


Also published on Medium.

Image by: Boston Public Library via Compfight cc

Marcus Couch
Marcus Couch is a speaker, author and consultant to businesses that use WordPress. He has been a WordPress enthusiast for 10 years and is co-host on two of the most popular WordPress podcasts, WordPress Plugins A-Z and WordPress Weekly. Originally from Chicago, Marcus now resides in Laguna Beach, CA, with his wife, Barbara.