For those of you who subscribed to my website awhile back, I just made a little tweak to my welcome email inviting my subscribers to reach out to me with any questions they are hoping to have answered in future blog posts. Please don't ever hesitate to reach out! I have received a few emails on the same topic, so this will be my first post responding to your inquiries.
Here's a summary in my own words of the question I will be answering:
I am an executive assistant and now oversee a staff of administrative assistants. I am new to a managerial EA role and get nervous when I have to delegate tasks. What tools or strategies do you recommend in order to get over this hurdle?
I want to start off answering this question by letting all of you know that I understand how you feel. I have managed staff members before and there's an adjustment period when it comes to delegation, however, you can do it!
When I was first allocating tasks and felt nervous I always reminded myself that this was on behalf of the person I supported or the company I worked for. Basically, I didn't just decide to give this person a task out of thin air.
Besides my personal mantra to make me feel okay with assigning tasks to the staff members, here are some key tips:
Before you communicate the task to the assistant, make sure you have all the details. I'll bet that a majority of these tasks will be originating elsewhere. Once you have all the details the assistant will need to start the task then you can begin the delegation process.
Make sure you are giving clear instructions. Don't talk fast or graze over important details; be as explicit in your instructions as possible. The point is for them to clearly understand what it is they need to do and to be equipped with all the information they need to hit the ground running.
Give all necessary resources. Be sure the assistant has all the resources, such as logins, credit card information, website links, contact information, and any other information that he/she will need.
Give an idea of where the task fits into the bigger picture. I worked for one executive who did this when he assigned tasks to me and it helped for me to understand how my task affected other items. It often gave what I was doing a bit more context. If the task you are assigning could use a bit more explanation, take the time to do so; it could help the assistant to understand why they are being asked to carry it out and the larger importance of doing so.
Ensure you explain what a successful completion of the task looks like. The assistant needs to know exactly what kind of an outcome you are looking for.
Consider offering up a check-in. When it comes to more complicated tasks, I have offered to have assistants check in with me once they have made a bit of headway with a rough draft or general outline of work for feedback before they get too deep. Check-ins like these are wonderful; they can save so much time in the long run. I recommend keeping check-ins (such as rough draft reviews) as an option in the back of your mind to ensure the tasks that have been delegated stay on the target timeline.
Do not forget to give a due date! Even if you are assigning a task that doesn't have a due date it helps for the other person to know expectations on the turnaround time. Being in a manager role you cannot make assumptions and due dates are definitely one area where that can easily happen.
Consider giving a time budget. I especially recommend doing this if the task is being outsourced to a virtual assistant or if you are learning your team's working styles. The last thing you need is for someone to spend a full day on a task that was meant to be knocked out in 1-2 hours.
Give them enough time to ask you all the questions they have. Don't make them feel like you are rushed even if you are pressed for time. Spending the time upfront to answer all questions will help to reduce the amount of questions later on so it's well worth your initial investment.
Treat the assistant in a manner you would want to be treated. I know this point is an obvious one but it's worth verbalizing. I'm sure we have all seen managers unload tasks in unthankful and impolite ways. Yes, it's the assistant's job to take on the tasks that you delegate. However, they are human and should be treated politely and it doesn't hurt to show them appreciation for their help as well. Make sure you don't ever become one of those horrible managers.
Make sure they know they can always reach out to you if they think of any additional questions later on. Not only do you want them to feel like they are supported at all times but it also helps for you to keep tabs on the progress of the task.
If there's an option to use a task management tool, I highly recommend doing so. Using one of these tools would allow you to virtually assign tasks and to oversee them as well. If that's an option to explore, here's my master list: Task Management Programs. My favorite tool on the list is Asana, however, I have heard a lot of assistants rave about Trello, so take some time to see which one has the functionality that appeals the most to you. One aspect of delegation is overseeing the status of the task, which I have found to be the most stressful part. If you use a task management tool you don't have to ask about the status via email, in person, etc.; you can simply climb in and find out exactly what is going on (once your team is using the tool regularly).
Lastly, you can take management courses. There are even courses designed for people stepping into a managerial role for the first time. I took a local course through adult education that was geared towards first time managers and I learned lots of great tips. I wrote an article that listed out several free online educational resources which is a great avenue to explore if you don't want to have to pay for a class (and if taking a course online is more appealing): 20 Fantastic (and Free!) Online Educational Resources. You should be able to search and find several options there.
Just like any other new skill, delegation takes practice. Eventually assigning tasks to your team of assistants will feel like any other task you normally do. It will also become a critical part of your efficiency as an assistant at a managerial level.
How are you able to effectively delegate tasks? Please comment below!