Don’t Just Double Your To-Do’s, Delegate!

Do you still beat yourself up when your to-do list turns into an unmanageable monster? It’s a common phenomenon, actually. You’re not alone if your inner leadership critic sounds something like this: “Why do you think you have to do it all? You really need to delegate!”

Recently I was coaching a team of leaders about the difference between doing more and delegating. Sure, you can go the traditional route as a leader and give away what’s on your task list. The problem here is that many of the to-do’s you assign won’t get done the way you want, to your level of expertise or expectation. When this happens, your to-do’s get multiplied and now you just have a combined to-do list with someone else. Then, when they move on or bail, you inherit their unbearable list of tasks.

An alternative approach to delegating is to scan your relational network for trustworthy ambassadors to empower. Your mission is too important to get bogged down in tasks. It’s also too big to be accomplished by one leader alone. You need to multiply a cadre of leaders that can carry your mission far beyond you. If you delegate well, their to-do list shouldn’t be an addendum to your tasks; rather, their leadership punch list should be an extension of your mission and leadership.

Instead of simply multiplying to-do’s for you and everyone else, there’s a better way to delegate. You don’t have to sit in fear that the tasks you moved off your own plate will one day come back two-fold (or twenty-fold!). Here are 6 time-tested steps that will help you shift from doubling to-do’s to multiplying your leadership.

1. Write Down Your Ever-Growing To-Do List

It’s impossible to delegate if you don’t know everything you do in given day, week, month, and year. You may think that having it all written down will stress you out, but it will actually help you sleep better at night. When you think you’ve got it all logged, keep going until EVERY to-do in your leadership world is on record.

2. Identify What Only You Can Do

Next, mark the items that are unique to you and integral to your mission. That is, answer “What can only you do?” versus “What can anyone do?” This will shorten your to-do list initially, as well as get you thinking about additional tasks you missed in round one.

3. Ask for Fresh Strategic Feedback

Get perspective from someone you trust that knows you well. Let them push back on your list of what you’re convinced only you can do. They’ll be able to assist you in whittling this down much shorter than you initially thought.

4. Group by Values and Initiatives, Not Tasks

Now, take the longer list of to-do’s that anyone can do and group them into strategic categories. Combine them into critical pillars that uphold the mission you’re on as a leader. Instead of focusing on the means, draw attention to the ends you’re pursuing.

5. Empower Ambassadors Instead of Sub-Contractors

Steps one through four will ensure you get a handle on your to-do’s and make the shift to understanding them strategically. (You might even dump some of the unnecessary ones along the way!) At this point, you need to find leaders that will own the values and initiatives that matter most to your mission. You don’t need sub-contractors that will simply take a few to-do’s off your plate for a short while. What will serve you and others best is to equip ambassadors who will lead on your behalf without you being there.

6. Let Go and Let Your Team Lead

Yes, your collective to-do’s will increase when you enlist a team; but your to-do’s will be yours and theirs will be theirs. You’ll have modeled for them what it takes to strategically decipher the difference between mission and tasks. And, instead of hoarding your to-do’s or trying to cage a monster task list, you’ll demonstrate how to be a leader that multiplies other leaders around a common mission. Together you’ll do more, and for a greater good, without just doubling your to-do’s!