The Only Framework You Need to Delegate Like a Pro

The Only Framework You Need to Delegate Like a Pro

We recently talked about the importance of clarifying decision-making and delegation at a startup — especially if someone is going to be out on leave.

Which reminded me…

Effective delegation and clarity around decision making is IMPORTANT ALL THE TIME!!

When Pardot was acquired by Exact Target (prior to Exact Target being acquired by Salesforce 9 months later - ha!), we went through an amazing manager training.

Exact Target was a high growth tech company with 2000+ employees so talent development was key.

They had an amazing in-house training curriculum based on Fierce, Inc.

I still have my 8 card cheat sheet from the training 10+ years ago!!

I ruthlessly purge clutter so this speaks volumes to the quality of this tiny notebook.

I especially loved their decision-making framework.

Don’t have time to fly to Indy and spend 3 days in a conference room to do the training in-person? I got you.

Here’s your ultimate guide to startup delegation!

Decision Tree Framework

🍃 1. Leaf Decision

  • Make the decision.

  • Act on it.

  • Do not report the action you took.

“Just do it. No need to tell me.”

🌿 2. Branch Decision

  • Make the decision.

  • Act on it.

  • Report the action you took daily, weekly, or monthly.

“Do it but keep me in the loop.”

🎋 3. Trunk Decision

  • Make the decision.

  • Report your decision before you take action.

“Run it by me before you do it.”

🌳 4. Root Decision

  • These decisions are made with input from many people.

  • Or, these decisions I’m not willing to delegate.

“I need to be the one handling this.”

How Do I Use This Framework?

1. Company-wide

Explain the framework to everyone on the team.

Then it becomes a shared company language for decision making:

Is this a leaf or a branch?
I know that’s a branch but want to try it as a trunk?
Which of these tasks are leaves, branches, trunks, roots?

2. Personal clarity

Use this framework to self-assess.

What instructions do you give your team?

Are you clear where they have autonomy? Do you honor that autonomy or second guess them?

When and where do you need to be looped in?

Are you too in the weeds or not close enough to key decisions?

How Do I Decide What To Delegate?

Wondering what you should delegate? Here are the questions we asked in our Fierce training. We matched up with a peer to “real play” and having someone ask and discuss was so helpful!

What activity or responsibility is no longer the best use of my time?

Make a list. Get someone to ask you this question and discuss it. Ask your team or a loved one. They may see things you don’t! Do a company-wide brainstorming sesh where everyone asks this question of themselves.

To whom would I like to give this responsibility?

Could be a person. But could also be a technology or maybe it can be dropped all together!

At what level?

Time for our decision tree! Is this a leaf, branch, trunk?

Who Do I Delegate To?

Um? Anyone?

Even if you’re a team of 1, you can hire a virtual assistant, enlist a neighborhood kid to handwrite thank you cards, or do a task/skill swap with another professional.

Hire an intern.

Let your junior teammate take more on.

Ask that high paid consultant to step it up.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised that people want to help and are often excited for a new challenge.

But, I Can’t Because…

Oh, hello, excuses! Nice to see you.

Get ready for me to punch you in the face.

No one else will want to do this. This is grunt work.

FACE PUNCH 👊 → What feels boring or menial to you, may be interesting and educational to someone else. They may be excited to improve on the process or it may align with their skills or personality. Don’t assume you know what others want.

No one can do it as well as I can. They are going to make mistakes.

FACE PUNCH 👊 → You make mistakes too. You just forgive yourself a lot quicker than you forgive others for the same mistakes. (Speaking from experience here…)

It’s reasonable to expect a learning curve. THAT’S WHY THERE IS A TRUNK DECISION. Start by having the delegatee (d-alligator? 🐊) run it by you, when they get pretty good, turn that decision into a branch. Don’t go from root to leaf!

No task is too small for me. I roll up my sleeves with the team.

FACE PUNCH 👊 → I see executives who are bogged down doing admin tasks to “prove” they still can or to take the burden off their team.

While well intentioned, there is a significant downside.

They are burned out, not doing the high value tasks only a CEO can do, depriving their team of growth opportunities, or all of the above!

Yes, there’s servant leadership blah blah blah. If your CEO is doing dumb shit instead of high value stuff, as an employee, you will be annoyed. Especially if the company is not moving forward.

This is DIFFERENT than a leader who is intentionally carving out time to walk the factory floor, meet with employees, or handle a customer support ticket to stay close to the front lines. That’s cool. O’Daily approved.

But shopping for the team snacks when an intern could or nitpicking grammar in a marketing blog? Denied!

We can’t afford it.

FACE PUNCH 👊 → How many hours would it free up? What could you do with those hours? If you can use it to bring in more revenue, there’s clear ROI on spending some money to delegate.

There are also very low cost options — offshore resources, college students, bartering, and more. You’ll be surprised at how creative you can get once you open the delegation door!

But I like doing that thing I know I should delegate.

FACE PUNCH 👊 → First, there’s probably 10 other things you don’t like doing, so start by delegating those.

Then, take a hard look at yourself to ask, why won’t I give my Legos away?

Am I afraid of sucking?

Do I want to scale with my company?

What got you here won’t get you there. Delegating is part of getting to the next level!

Or, if you genuinely love the work that you know you should delegate, find someone for that other role you don’t want to do.

Not every founder wants to be CEO and that’s okay!

What If I Don’t Have Someone To Delegate To?

Real talk.

Sometimes you really don’t have someone to delegate to.

Team is small, money is tight.

MAYBE a $10/hr offshore virtual assistant can be helpful. MAYBE you can find a free intern who just wants the experience.

But maybe not.

Here’s another delegation question to ask:

What can I automate?

Helloooooo, ChatGPT. Have you heard of it? 😂

It was amazing to work with Mark Isham at Rigor. He was a founder who could code anything. He built so many amazing internal tools because if he had to do a task manually more than once, he turned it into code! Not all of us can do that BUT we can do more of it than we think.

What can I subtract or pause?

What are you doing that can be paused or is no longer a priority?

Subtracting could mean — send shorter emails, ignore messages on LinkedIn, or deleting Tiktok.

Or it could mean letting go of the not-good-fit-customer, cutting the buggy feature that no one uses, or doing fewer general marketing events to focus on the highly targeted ones.

Personally, every time I audit my time, priorities, and calendar, I find something that’s outdated, no longer important, or could be - GASP - delegated. 😉

It’s a great feeling to find extra time in the schedule, and to remember how awesome, capable, and helpful teammates, tools, and services are!

What are you going to start delegating after reading this post?? What delegation frameworks or tools have you used at your company? Any other tips?