E56: Don’t wait until you’re drowning to delegateOct 28, 2020
In almost every improvement project we run, the firm sees the greatest immediate impact by shifting work to the right people. Most of the time they knew, intuitively, that the work needed to move, but without guidance, they couldn’t do it. Why? Why is it so hard to delegate work?
Often it’s because they’re just too busy doing the work to figure out how to delegate it.
Today’s tip: get ahead of the overwhelm by delegating sooner.
I recently interviewed Theresa Summerlin, a solutions consultant at Belay Solutions, as part fo my regular Virtual Coffeehouse Workshop series [link in written version]. Theresa specializes in delegation. She helps lawyers stay sane and improve their productivity and success by outsourcing many of business and administrative tasks that make up the bookends of their business.
Theresa firmly believes that you can work with anyone anywhere and still create a cohesive, powerful and productive team. There are over 1,200 people on her team at Belay and no one shares an office. Everyone, including the corporate team, is dispersed and works 100% virtually, yet they form a very powerful, tightly knit group.
Theresa’s mantra is, “Hustle is out. Empowering and delegating are in.” And she’s very, very clear on one thing, “you need to delegate before you’re drowning.”
If you wait until you are overwhelmed and on the verge of drowning, it’s just too easy to tell yourself you don’t have time to teach someone else to do the work. The key is to plan, so you can stay ahead of the curve.
Watch for the telltale signs that you are getting too busy:
- Email overwhelm
- Rescheduling meetings multiple times
- Juggling double and triple bookings
- Spending longer hours than usual at the office
- Increasing your turn-around times
- Hearing from colleagues or clients that you’re no longer being as responsive
Theresa acknowledges that it’s sometimes easier to talk about delegating work than to do it. For some people, it’s just not in their DNA. They have to feel in control of everything, including things that really don’t matter.
For others, the explaining and training element takes too long. We’ve talked about this in a previous tip in the context of delegating administrative and legal tasks to your juniors and employees within your firm.
In the last few months, we’ve been hearing from more and more lawyers in our membership [link in written version] and in our one-on-one consulting calls [link in written version] who are struggling to delegate. They’re already drowning.
Trying to do it all only adds to your stress. You know you’re a bottleneck that interrupts the timely flow of the business and administrative work that your practice depends on. You waste time on tasks that don’t require your skills as an attorney, so you have less time to practice law and generate revenue.
In June, we provided you with a tool you can use to identify those things you can and should delegate, and those things no one in your office should be doing at all because they don’t add any value. I’ve put a link to it in the notes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go back and work through the delegation tool. Make a list of tasks—even the ones that just take you 30 seconds—and commit to delegating them.
Again, today’s tip is this: Don’t wait until you’re underwater before you decide it’s time to delegate. Start thinking strategically about what needs to be done and who should do it, and how and to whom you can delegate.
Learning the art of effective delegation sooner, rather than later, will enable you to create a practice you can grow and scale in the years to come.
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