By SHWETA JHAJHARIA, THE LONDON COACHING GROUP
Whether you are a sole trader or manage a team of dozens, you need to ensure that the work that needs doing gets done – correctly and on time.
That may sound obvious and easy but it’s a fact of life that things have a habit of falling through the cracks.
Also, being 100% in control of a project and all its elements reduces the stress and takes away that feeling of carrying around a ‘heavy load’ – if you know what’s going on and you know it’s all under control, you have room to breathe and work on the business (not just in the business).
So how do you prevent the important (and even the not-so-important) tasks falling through the cracks?
Here are my six tips, including a great free tool that can help every business get more control:
1) Stop doing everything yourself
This is the number one problem I find with my clients who aren’t leveraging. They believe they can do it all themselves – they are the superhero.
Well even the most successful person in the world cannot do everything – and that’s ok!
Share the load with people who are stronger in areas where you are weaker and your business will reach new heights. It can actually be that simple.
2) Give away your low-skill, low-fun tasks first
It would be fantastic if your team members could replicate what you do so you don’t have to do it. However, that’s the goal, not where to start.
All your tasks sit on a spectrum, from low skill to high skill and low fun to high fun.
The tasks to delegate that give you the most leverage and release your time to maintain the business closely are the ones that sit in the low-fun and low-skill quadrant.
Why? Because these tasks are:
- Easier to train for – if the skill-level required for the task is low, then it won’t take long for your team member to pick it up.
- Cheapest to hire for – if the tasks aren’t particularly exciting but are reasonably easy, then your team member doesn’t have to be in a higher salary bracket to take the job.
- Creating the most distractions – these tasks are those annoying buzzing flies in your work world which steer you away from the tasks where your true talent can shine. Once you offload these, you’ll find you have the time to work on the stuff you’re really good at.
3) Match the correct person to the role
You know how children learn to match the correct shaped peg to the hole that it fits in? Well that’s a skill you need to apply when recruiting.
When you are trying to find a team member, you need to ensure they are right for the role that they’re filling. Don’t hire someone just because they’re there.
Before you start hiring, you must define the role along with the responsibilities and the desired output.
You should then match that against a few key considerations:
- Do they have the right skills for the job?
- Does their personality type match the tasks that they’ll be doing?
- Are they enthusiastic about the job?
4) Delegate work, but don’t abdicate
Introducing a system is absolutely critical to any area where you want to create leverage. The most important of these systems in your business will be managing your team.
As a leader, your tasks will either be tasks where you are doing, creating or “making”, or tasks where you are directing, assisting, delegating or “managing”. The key to effective delegation is to ensure that you have time for managing as well as making.
There are a few simple ways to ensure you’re on top of your team:
- Define the outcome. You need to start off by ensuring your team members know exactly what is expected of them. The best way to do that is to tell them from the very beginning.
- Timeline everything. If there’s no urgency, tasks rarely get done. The easiest way to timeline activity is to start with when the final result needs to be done and then backtrack according to the steps that need to happen to get to that result, and how long those will take.
- Ask them to recap. After you assign a task or project, always ask your team to repeat the task to you. Hear it in their words and make sure that they have understood and are on the same page as you.
- Include a touch point in your diary. You must ensure that there is a point mid-way through a project where you check in and make sure everything is on track. If you wait until the end, then you may not catch issues before it’s too late.
- Install a task management system. There are a number of powerful task management systems out there such as Asana or Podio, which can take your task management to new heights. But in smaller companies, it can often be better to go simpler and use a basic spreadsheet to manage tasks. At the end of this article I explain a simple tool using Google Spreadsheets that can be used to keep everyone on track.
5) Document everything you do
This is an incredibly important part of leveraging and ensuring seamless transitions. Most business owners I know who are feeling stuck in their business have one thing in common: all their critical information is trapped inside their head.
Pull that information out from your head and document it. But remember to keep it simple. No one is going to want to read reams of training material – and they probably won’t absorb it.
Here are a few ways you can keep your documentation concise:
- Create one-pager documents. Limit yourself to a page and you’ll be amazed what you’re able to condense.
- Make use of checklists and bullet points. We all operate much better when we’ve got a clear list of things that look and feel achievable.
- Create how-to videos either using a camera or using software like Jing that lets you do a video screenshot of what you’re doing on screen. Videos are much more easily digested than words on a page, especially if you’re explaining some sort of technical process that is done on the computer.
Create concise but comprehensive documentation and it will feed back into your business by making the training of new hires an absolute breeze, ensuring your business runs without interruption.
6) The simple and free tool to ensure nothing falls through the cracks
At the London Coaching Group, we have an efficient team that works very closely.
And we exchange barely any emails.
How is this done? By using this really simple, free and effective tool.
What you need:
1) Your team. Obviously you can’t delegate without your team members!
2) A Google account (which is free) and an activated Google Drive (also free). If you have a Gmail account, that’s your Google account. To find Google Drive go to http://www.google.com/drive
3) A Google Spreadsheet within Google Drive (click Create > Spreadsheet). This works much like an Excel Spreadsheet. It must also be shared with your team (click on Share in the top right).
You then create column headings for the following areas:
- Task description – which will contain a short description of what needs to be done.
- Due date – if filled in, this is the firm date by which the task must be done. If there’s nothing here it would be a “when you get around to it” task.
- Date started – filled in by your team to indicate when work on a task has begun.
- Date complete – filled in by your team to let you know a task is ready for review.
- Team Q’s/Comments – filled in by the team if they have any comments about the task (e.g. “This is done but I need you to check the second paragraph for accuracy and see if you like the image I chose.”)
- Leader Responses – filled in by you, giving comments back to the team.
So how do we use this?
1) Whenever a task comes to mind, I, as the team leader, will add it to the spreadsheet straight away. Having the Google Drive app on my mobile devices means no matter where I am, it goes directly into the spreadsheet.
2) My team then gets started on it and fills in the fields accordingly.
3) Once a task has a “Date complete” I will double-check the task
4) This is the most important thing – only I can delete. Once I’ve double-checked and it’s done, then, and only then, do I delete it from this list. That way I always have peace of mind.
My team and I keep this document open during our entire work day. It acts as the communal ‘to-do’ list. Everyone is aware of the status of all other projects, which makes meetings a breeze and ensures absolutely nothing falls through the cracks.
By using the tips and tools above you can run your business and your projects smoothly and efficiently. You and your team will always know exactly what’s going on and can ensure that no tasks, urgent or otherwise, fall through the cracks. Although that doesn’t guarantee there won’t be any problems, it does mean that you’ll spot them sooner and have more time to deal with them.
About the Author
Shweta Jhajharia, Principal Coach and founder of The London Coaching Group, is a multi- award-winning business coach, recognised both by external bodies and the industry awards panels as the top coach in the UK. Despite competitive economy, her clients across sectors consistently achieve measurable double digit growth (over 41%) and are the most awarded client base in UK.