How to Easily Delegate when you Don’t have Employees

Delegate “I just don’t know how to prioritize all of this and people are counting on me to deliver,” she blurted in overwhelm. ‘I’m going to get fired if I can’t get this done!”  It was noon on Father’s Day when my client called me in a panic.  She had over 35 items on her priority list which were all due on Tuesday for a client meeting.  She recently started a new job, didn’t have any employees yet, and was in that uncomfortable learning phase we all experience with a job change.

Everyone can relate to drinking from a fire hose after accepting a new role or job.  There’s so much to learn and usually we are left on our own to figure it out.  My client’s first reaction was to immediately get heads down, working day and night to get this all done on her own at the expense of her sleep and personal life.

I had a different idea. She simply needed to find ways to share the work with other people if she had any hope of hitting the deadline.  There was just too much work for one person to complete in the next 48 hours.  As a productivity expert, I’m generally optimistic about getting things done, but this time I had to be transparent and realistic.

My client immediately pushed back that she didn’t have any employees or an administrative assistant who she could delegate the tasks.  She also mentioned that many of her colleagues were on vacation and unreachable, so they couldn’t help either. She didn’t see any possible way to spread the work to anyone else. I remember feeling that same way at times when I worked in the corporate world. There was so much to do, and I was a team of one.

It was quite stressful and exhausting until I figured out the solution. Barter. 

I learned to creatively barter to build and leverage my Unofficial Team – people who didn’t roll up to me on some organization chart but whose cooperation I needed to complete activities.

My client and I spent the next 30 minutes getting highly focused and solution oriented as we built her Unofficial Team and barter strategy.  Here’s the plan she used to succeed:

Step 1: Identify everything on her list that ONLY she could do based on her knowledge and expertise.  Sometimes there are actions that only we can do no matter how much we’d rather delegate to someone else.

Step 2: Identify all tasks that could be done by someone else.  Anything that could be done by someone else was marked with a D for Delegate.  Some were big tasks, some little. The key point was that she didn’t have to do them herself.

Step 3:  Ask for Help. This was the most difficult part for my client.  She was raised believing she had to do it all alone and admitting she needed help was a sign of weakness. We requested assistance for every task marked with a D in Step 2 from other people.  It didn’t matter that some people were peers, some worked for another colleague, and some were her up line managers. We identified the person who could complete the task quickly and easily in the spirit of cooperation and pitching in.

Within an hour, my client had volunteers for 9 of the tasks. 

That’s almost 25% of the work off her plate!  Because other people knew how to do the work and it was a low time commitment, they got things done in record time.  These same tasks would have taken my client hours as she climbed up the learning curve.

Asking for help from an Unofficial Team is a common problem I see with clients.  Just because work has to get done doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself.  It’s the opposite.  You can been perceived as resourceful when you enroll others to help you.  That’s a great skill to develop which is transferable outside of business.

The best part, this method works for employees and entrepreneurs.  Business owners can engage and barter with other business owners to get more done. I recently held a training workshop and needed an image for my social media posts.  It would have taken me hours to learn how to do that in Canva since I was not familiar with that tool. Instead, I asked for help from a creative friend who produced the image in minutes and recorded a video of her steps in Jing so I could do it myself next time.  Brilliant!

I challenge you to follow this formula to get more done in less time.  It absolutely works.  Just remember with bartering, what comes around goes around.  Be ready to help someone else in return when asked. If there is something you do effortlessly and fast, use that as your barter currency.  As long as you keep barter in balance, you should have plenty of people willing to be part of your Unofficial Team.

Please share this post with your community so others can be more productive and profitable.  I’d love to hear your comments on successful ways you leverage your Unofficial Team to get more done.


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Nancy Gaines

Nancy Gaines is CEO/Founder of Gain Advantages Inc. and has been advising small businesses and Fortune 100 companies how to increase revenues through proven systems for almost two decades. She is a best-selling author and international keynote speaker. Nancy has been named in the Top 100 Productivity Experts to follow on Twitter and has a global podcast downloaded in over 95 countries. Her main focus is creating business processes with actionable steps so her clients achieve more consistency, ease, and ultimate success.