Why you need to embrace delegation
Marketers who excel at their craft may find it difficult to hand off work to others, but columnist Matt Umbro argues that the long-term benefits are worth it.
Over the course of my career, I’ve made great efforts to hone my paid search and client relation skills.
Not only do I strive to do great work, but I also want to be seen as knowledgeable and confident by my clients. I bring up this drive for outward success because internally, I’ve struggled with something that can play a huge factor when delivering results: delegation.
At its core, delegation seems simple enough. Assign a task to someone, give that person a due date and receive the final product. However, I’m sure many of us can attest to the process not always being this straightforward. Many factors are involved, including:
- the ability of the person completing the task to follow directions;
- the ability of the delegator to give clear directions; and
- the scope of the task.
So why is it important to delegate if we know we can do the work in a more efficient manner ourselves?
Like many things in life, we need to think about effort vs. reward. Similar to how we use automation for tasks like reporting, delegation allows us to focus on more impactful initiatives. These initiatives will help accounts scale at an accelerated pace.
Put another way, delegation is about using everyone’s time in the most efficient manner.
The truth about delegation
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. If you are going to delegate work, you need to have a certain level of patience and trust in the person to whom you are assigning the task.
It will take you less time to the do the assignment yourself, but that’s not the point. Properly setting expectations during the delegation process will pay off for everyone in the long run. If you can’t meet these requirements, then you might as well do the work yourself.
Most likely, the work will not be complete up to your standards the first time, and that’s okay. Whenever I delegate a first-time assignment, I’ll explain what I need completed and what the end result should be.
I’ll answer basic questions (e.g., what the format should be) during our initial interaction, while encouraging the person to use their best judgment about how to proceed.
Once the project is complete, I ask the person to walk through the assignment with me. This explanation lets me know if the project was correctly understood. During this process, I’ll answer follow-up questions and provide my edits. I find that this collaborative approach better helps the person to understand the immediate task at hand, but also future, similar initiatives.
As an example, I may ask someone to run a search query report and highlight terms that can potentially be added as new keywords. After walking through the assignment, I expect this person to be able to conduct the same task across different accounts. Metric thresholds may change, but the process is the same, which leads to the next point.
Earlier, I mentioned that I don’t expect the project to be completed to my standards the first time. However, I expect to see significant progress the second time around. The project doesn’t have to be 100 percent correct, but errors made the first time should not be repeated. If they are, I determine where the lack of understanding and/or communication is. It may be that the person assigned to the project isn’t the right fit, or my explanation wasn’t clear.
It’s easy to take back the work yourself and not delegate anymore, but in the long run, this strategy hurts account growth. There are growing pains when you delegate; however, remind yourself that this up-front work will prove beneficial down the line.
Another tactic I take is to have the person present the work to me as if I were the client. There’s a huge difference between showing work to a colleague and presenting to the client who is paying for your services. The goal is that this higher level of expectation decreases errors and presents the work clearly.
The larger picture
I understand that not all tasks are simple and straightforward. You may assign a task that doesn’t necessarily have an absolute answer and requires the person’s best judgment based upon the information available.
These tasks need more care because they require that person to think critically. At the end of the day, you may be okay with someone who completes simple tasks, but if you encourage that person to think about strategy, everyone wins.
Once I trust someone to complete elementary projects, I’ll work with that person to take on more strategic assignments. Going back to the search query report example, instead of just looking for additional keywords, I’ll ask that person to create new campaigns based on those keywords. By taking the next step, the person better understands the end game of my delegation by showing the “why” behind the assignment.
An encouraging result of delegation is the ability to learn something from the person you have assigned the work. Often, we are so single-minded that we don’t consider alternatives. The person may come back to us with a differing view that challenges us to reassess how we thought about the assignment. Even if the process remains unchanged, the fact that both parties are open to improvement is encouraging.
Delegation doesn’t just have to be about assigning work. It can be a portal through which quality of work improves through collaboration.
By no means is delegation a simple task. We take pride in our work, and to hand that off to someone else is difficult. We want the work done in a specific way that meets our high standards. We tend to think that these high standards can’t be achieved by anyone else.
Setting ego aside, it’s crucial to think about delegation in terms of positive gains. By assigning tasks, you are able to focus more on account strategy and growth without being hampered by the cumbersome projects. Proper delegation also grooms your colleagues to consider strategy instead of just checking off an assignment.
There is no doubt that delegation can be stressful. That’s why it’s crucial to think about how it impacts long-term growth, both with your accounts and your colleagues.