By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
When designers tell me they are overloaded, overworked and stressed out, my immediate advice to them is to delegate more. Let’s face it; most of us are control freaks. We’ve spent years formulating and executing our own designs. We’re used to being the ones who call the shots on a project. So I understand that it’s not easy letting go. But you can learn to do it.
First, let’s get clear that delegating is not surrender. You are not giving up all control. The person you delegate to is still responsible and accountable to you. You need to trust they will get the job done.
Next, take baby steps. Start with small things that are eating up your time and sapping your energies. I suggest you begin by selecting three things that you can delegate to one or more of your staff (or, if you don’t have a staff, to outsourced or freelance personnel). It could be something as simple as maintaining appointments and project calendars, tracking orders and deliveries, responding to email and internet inquiries, or managing your marketing and social media presence. Or, depending on your needs, it could be something more substantial, like bookkeeping, invoicing or accounts payable, or managing various other office functions.
Now, you’ve just created more work for your staff, who probably are feeling overloaded as well. Have them do the same thing—pick three things that they can delegate to someone else. By doing this you are achieving multiple gains at the same time. First, you are opening up time in your schedule to devote to more critical and profit-making activities. Second, you are allowing your staff to gain new skills and experience, which will benefit both them and your firm in the months and years ahead. Third, you are teaching them early on the value and benefits of delegating, which will make all of you more productive.
So, let’s get back to that part about trust. Successful delegation results from three things: trust, good communication, and timely feedback. If you give the person clear and complete instructions, help them to understand why what you are asking them to do is important, and set some parameters for how they go about doing it (but not micromanage), you can have confidence they will achieve the result you’re looking for. Should they falter at some point, then giving them clear, timely and supportive feedback is essential to their development as well as to correcting the situation. That give and take over time builds confidence and cements trust. And that allows everyone to work much better, with less stress and likelihood of burnout.