Delegation and the 80/20 Rule

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When people hear the word “delegation” they often think simply of handing off work, and yes, that’s part of the equation. They might also think about handing off work that is unpleasant or difficult, and yes, that’s part of the equation too. But the best way to think about delegation is through two lenses: improving the delegators rate of pay, and handing off the 80 in the 80/20 rule. Let’s get into it.

The Pyramid of Value

As a company grows, the owner and management team need to consistently think about raising their personal rate of pay. This doesn’t mean asking for pay raises every month, but rather increasing the value of the type of work that they are doing. For example, strategy, management, and developing marketing campaigns are examples of higher value work that should be the primary concern of owners and management. Filing, checking social media, and answering low-level customer emails are important, but not a good use of the time of management.

Thus, in the pyramid of value as the company evolves, lower value work is being pushed down the pyramid to junior staff while management and senior staff focus on the major value adds they bring to the table that justify their rates of pay. Another way of thinking about this is considering that if the company is paying you $75,000 a year, and you’re filing, that’s a very poor rate of return on the company’s investment. You want to consistently focus on the 20% in which you add the most value.

Delegate the 80 So You Can Focus on the 20

The easiest way to get time to focus on the 20% where you add the most value is to take a look at the 80% of work that takes up the most of your time and chop it up into bite-sized pieces for delegation. Unlike the simplistic idea of “cloning yourself” (a very difficult task from start to finish) this portions-off tasks which you can train others in doing. This doesn’t mean the tasks are themselves easy, but rather that there’s a discrete skill set that can be conveyed to someone else so that they can increase in value in their work and you are free to move on to things that are more important for the company.

A challenge that some face when going through this process is giving up things that are in the 80%, but are things they genuinely enjoy. If this were your personal life, this wouldn’t be a problem. You like gardening and taking care of your lawn because it helps you feel more at peace, even though it costs you three or four times longer than a professional would take. That’s fine. That’s part of knowing what matters to you and accepting the financial and time costs. But in a business the time is not your own. You should always want to, especially as the owner, give the company the maximum value for your time, not hold on to lower value tasks just because you enjoy them.

And, as we’ve discussed before, remember to delegate outcomes, not processes. Those “on the ground” are in the best position to continue to adapt and tweak the process. As long as you convey the skills and communicate the outcomes that are necessary, you’ll empower your fellow team members to grow in their own way.

Final Thoughts

This is an ongoing process. You will always continue to grow the 20% which delivers maximum value to the company, and you can continue to break apart and delegate down the 80% which takes the most time. As long as you stay vigilant in the process you are going to watch your productivity increase, your staff develop, and your company get smarter and faster.

Interested in more about delegation? Check out my delegation course!