I feel like an imposter, writing about delegation because what the hell do I know about it? But, maybe that’s why I should write about it. About what went wrong, how I’m solving it, and how others have been reacting to it.
I think I picked this up from Dickie Bush. In one of his tweets about writing regularly, Bush asked people to think about all the problems they had solved and topics they had learned about in the last two years. When I sat down to make this list, ‘delegation’ was one. So, here goes.
Who am I? And, why am I talking about delegation?
I’m a loud, curious, and decently-chaotic 21-year-old. And, almost always the youngest founder in the room. I’m currently building Decoding Draupadi, a platform dedicated to eliminating biases, de-alienating women’s issues, and breaking the glass ceiling that stops us women from soaring high.
So, founder. Still sounds funny to my ears. I mean, I was an intern just a year ago. And no, I’m not complaining, of course. Merely pointing out the fact that good things happened, I’m grateful, and I’m learning.
How did I get here? Well, back in college, I was lucky enough to come across The Podium’s (a podcasting network also incubated by C4E) LinkedIn post about a writing cohort. And since then (thanks to my boring college life and curiosity), I’ve had the chance to do multiple things at C4E (a creative collective) – writing, content strategy, brand strategy, hiring, and most recently, turning an idea into a business.
Today, I work with fellow 21-year-olds on content, social media, ideation, and more, while also learning from older, more-experienced folks. And, the former requires a fair amount of ignorance (of my age) and delegation.
And, that’s why I’m sharing what I’ve learnt (and continue to learn) about delegation. From establishing authority, and avoiding micromanagement, to knowing what to delegate, I’m sharing the intangibles, the hard-to-articulate experiences with you today.
1. Establishing authority
I’m using ‘authority’ here, for a lack of a better word. For me, it has mostly been about communicating the fact that I will be assigning work and also overseeing some of it.
I’d like to believe that I’ve had trouble with this because I’ve mostly had to delegate tasks to people my age. Or sometimes, even older ones. There’s friendship. There’s comfort. In some cases, strong camaraderie. And thus, I’ve found it incredibly tough to do things like following up and holding someone accountable for their work.
But, here are two things that worked for me:
- Talking about this upfront: I almost always begin my conversations with the fact that there is no hierarchy here. As in, at DD and C4E, we don’t have a hierarchy in the orthodox sense. We’ve got project owners, colleagues, and contributors that help in their own way (mutually agreed). So, establishing authority here would mean that, as a co-founder, I know the mission we’re on. I know what needs to be done to move the agenda forward. And thus, I will be the one delegating tasks and overseeing them at times. Not because I’m in a certain position in the organization.
- Understand their process: This step is more beneficial to me than the person on the receiving end. I’ve found it extremely helpful to find out about the other person’s working hours, work systems, how they like to get a brief, how they like to receive feedback, etc. This helps me be clear in my communication.
Establishing authority takes me to my next point, which is also a very personal experience.
2. Trusting yourself and your position enough to communicate confidently
Disclaimer: this may just be me. So, please read ahead because it would be nice to find out that I’m not alone in this!
This one’s quite simple, actually. Until I gain confidence in myself or trust myself to manage projects, I will never be able to get someone else to treat me that way.
You must’ve heard of that phrase before, “treat yourself like you would want others to treat you”. It’s that.
And, before writing this, I thought that there is no actionable solution to this until I did find one!
Do it regularly. Talk to more people. Introduce yourself as the founder or that position you’re not comfortable saying out loud as often as you can. Introduce yourself around adults that intimidate you. You may fumble. You might mess up. But, one thing’s for sure. You will ONLY get better as you go by. So, that.
3. Now that the mindset bit is out of the way, we’ve got the next, most obvious question: WHAT should you delegate?
For me, knowing what to delegate was more like a forced-into-it situation. And I don’t say that negatively. I just mean that it was very natural.
For instance, at Decoding Draupadi, as we picked up more projects, cracked more ideas, and got more people to help us, I was expected to move away from operational things to managing the various verticals. While I’m still involved in daily operations, a large part of my work also involves management.
So, if I were to draw a lesson out of it, it would be to understand your role and skills first. The overlap between what you can do and what you’re expected to do will almost always be the answer to what you should keep on your to-do list and what you can outsource.
4. Avoiding micromanagement and making space for ownership
I’ve been incredibly lucky with my colleagues, peers, and mentors. I haven’t been micromanaged in the past year (which is rare for people my age), and I have also been trusted with high-stake projects. I remember, during one of these projects, I accidentally showed the client the actual cost for the project (oh the panic!); I have made mistakes too.
Finally, I’ve been put in strange, new rooms knowing that someone’s always got my back. And that’s why I don’t want to be anything but this to people who work with me. I simply want to pay it forward.
How has this been going so far?
- I’m confident that I don’t want to do it any other way. So, this is a good place to be – knowing what and how you want to do things.
- Giving ownership of your projects is difficult. It requires a LOT of trust. However, our process of hiring at both C4E and DD has helped make this process easy.
- As for avoiding micromanagement, I’ve found that communicating the objective of projects and tasks and laying out expectations in terms of deliverables and timelines leaves no room for micromanagement. Both these things bring a sense of responsibility and clarity that the other person may need to do a good job.
- Making space for ownership: In my time at C4E and DD now, I’ve noticed that giving ownership of a project or allowing people to have some autonomy and space to experiment leads to amazing results. As selfish as it may be, people tend to put in more work when they believe that it’s not just for someone else (or a boss), but for their own project.
All of this requires an immense amount of trust and faith. So, be mindful of who you work with, but also experiment and trust your gut when it comes to people. Balance is key.
5. Giving feedback
Giving feedback is simple, just not easy. And, it’s another monster that can be calmed if you communicate regularly and openly.
Have I mastered a comfortable way of giving feedback? Not really. But, what I do know is that, again, it’s best to ask the person how they would like to receive feedback.
- Would they want you to check in mid-project and share your thoughts?
- Or, are they comfortable with sharing a final draft that they’re confident about?
- Do they like the feedback to be documented (comments, email, Discord, etc)? Or, would they like to discuss it on call?
These are just examples of what you should know about the other person to make the process comfortable for both of you. As you try these out, you will find your own methods.
I think that’s about it. I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d cracked the skill to delegate and was going to decide after I write this piece. Verdict: I’m somewhere in the middle. And, that’s a good place to be at, for now. This also means that I’m still learning and that I’m not perfect in my ways.
I hope this helped. If you do end up trying these, or would like to share your bit, you know where to reach me or team DD.