• Peggy Downs

How to Delegate (Without Losing Control)

Most charter school leaders struggle to get it all done. You are expected to be an expert in too many jobs, and you never have enough time. It is easy to get buried in the details of a job that someone else could be doing, but how can you decide what to delegate? How can you be sure the job will be done well? Who is responsible if it fails?

Decision-Making Chart

I have good news! This chart will help you decide when (and when NOT) to delegate, and how to manage outcomes and responsibility.

Delegate the time-wasters and brain-draining tasks.

How to Use this Chart

Each quadrant of this chart refers to a type of task you may face daily. Effective leaders know when to delegate so that they can focus on mission-critical tasks.


Low Interest/Low Expertise

Look at the lower left box. This quadrant is for tasks where you have low personal interest and low expertise. Personal interest does not just mean you don’t like the topic; it can mean any task where the outcomes are not important to you personally. Low expertise means that you would probably spend more time learning how to do the task than it would take to simply assign the job to someone who knows how to do it.


These tasks are prime targets for delegating, but you can’t just assign the task to someone and forget about it. You are still the leader and you must establish the expected outcomes. You should establish a system of monitoring results from a distance, which means scheduling a random audit or periodic check-in to see if goals are being met.

An example of a task in this category might be writing purchase orders. Of course you can learn how to do the job, but do you personally want to invest the time? Do you care how purchase orders are written? This is most likely a task that you can assign to someone else and simply check your POs monthly or review each time a major order is received. You might be surprised at how much time a task like this can steal from more important jobs. What jobs are you doing now that you could delegate and monitor from a distance?


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High Interest/Low Expertise

The box in the lower right hand quadrant is for tasks where you are very interested in the topic but you are not an expert. An example might be that you are considering changing lunch vendors and you don’t have experience, but you care deeply about the quality and service of the lunch program at your school. In this case, you need to build a coalition of interested and experienced team members. You might invite the lunchroom supervisor, an interested parent, and a teacher or two. As a committee, you would investigate options, set priorities, and create an action plan.


Depending on the circumstances, you may call this a team decision or you may make the final call with their input. Either way, you will have buy-in and understanding from the community members who serve on the committee with you and your decision will be better because of their input.


Once the decision is made and the new program is implemented, you will need to develop a system for actively monitoring the results. For example, you might have the lunchroom supervisor report to you weekly and send out a survey to parents after a period of time has passed, to see how well the new vendor is meeting their needs.


Low Interest/High Expertise

The top left hand quadrant holds those tasks where you are an expert but the decision is not high on your priority list at this time. An example of this type of task might be curriculum inventory and ordering. You know what is needed but it is not the best use of your time to create orders for next year. You can train others to handle this responsibility.


In this case, you would choose a staff member to be responsible for the task, set timelines and goals, and let them decide how to do the job. You decide when and what; they get to decide how. In the example above, that might mean that you give the staff member responsibility to create an inventory tracking system on Excel and to work with other staff members to complete an inventory of all materials, and then to prepare an order for your approval by the deadline you determine. They get to decide how to manage the details. You would need to plan a periodic progress check and to ensure that goals are met. You make your expertise available as you answer questions and develop your staff member’s understanding of your curriculum needs, but you free up your time to work on other tasks.


High Interest /High Expertise

The top right hand quadrant is where you want to focus your efforts. This is why you do what you do. Whether it’s developing a strategic plan or leading staff development, this is your baby. Let your passion shine through as you lead your school forward with vision and expertise.


Provide Oversight and Accountability

When you effectively delegate the time-wasters and brain-draining tasks that you should not be doing yourself, you will have time to look at the bigger picture and truly LEAD your school. However, as the executive director of a charter school, you can delegate authority but you can never delegate responsibility. Use these strategies to ensure you are providing appropriate oversight and accountability for all the important functions that you choose to delegate.

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To help 100 school leaders write successful grants in the next 5 years


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All views expressed in this work are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

 

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