15 Approaches for Delegating Tasks in Startup Teams
Delegating tasks effectively is crucial for the growth of any startup, so we’ve gathered insights from founders, CEOs, and other key leaders to uncover the factors they consider when assigning tasks. From aligning tasks with individual strengths to distributing tasks based on complexity, explore the diverse strategies used by fifteen experts to empower their teams and optimize operations.
- Align Tasks with Individual Strengths
- Delegate Based on Personal Investment
- Utilize Tools for Efficient Task Assignment
- Consider Skill Proficiency and Learning Opportunities
- Tailor Tasks to Team Member Expertise
- Empower Through Strength-Based Task Allocation
- Humanize Workforce Through Personal Understanding
- Ensure Clarity in Task Delegation
- Prioritize Open-Minded, Interested Team Members
- Opt for Freelancers for Critical Tasks
- Assign Tasks Based on Voluntary Interest
- Use Trust to Upskill Team
- Foster Ownership with Collaborative Brainstorming
- Measure Task Impact for Effective Delegation
- Distribute Tasks Based on Complexity
Align Tasks with Individual Strengths
Delegating tasks within a startup team is a nuanced art that balances the dynamic interplay of skill sets, interests, and workload among team members. The foundational principle guiding my approach to task delegation is the recognition of each team member’s unique strengths and developmental aspirations. This approach is not merely about assigning tasks based on current competencies; it also encompasses the strategic nurturing of potential and growth.
One critical factor I consider when assigning tasks is the alignment between the task’s requirements and the individual’s intrinsic motivations and career goals. This alignment is pivotal. When a task resonates with a team member’s personal and professional aspirations, it naturally engenders a higher level of engagement and ownership. This, in turn, not only enhances productivity but also contributes to a more fulfilling work experience for the team member.
Moreover, in a startup environment where agility and adaptability are key, matching tasks with personal aspirations allows the team to be more resilient and innovative. It creates a culture where challenges are seen as opportunities for growth, rather than mere obligations. Consequently, this approach not only optimizes task execution in the present but also strategically develops the team’s capabilities for future endeavors.
In essence, the art of delegation in a startup is not just a managerial task; it’s a leadership responsibility that plays a crucial role in shaping the team’s culture, driving innovation, and ensuring sustainable growth.
Delegate Based on Personal Investment
Personal sovereignty is something we appreciate and connect with in our business, so quite often this can dictate how the delegation of tasks works, at least if they are on an ad-hoc basis.
The reason for this is that if a bit of research needs to be done, or a new process needs to be built in for the team, I would rather see these tasks completed by people who have either truly engaged with the idea, are passionate about making something work, or are the person who recognized the problem that needs fixing.
Having people complete tasks who are already invested just makes sense because you will get the best effort in that task. Obviously, sometimes you can’t follow this method because of workload, but when you can, engaging people with where they are at will help inspire passion and ensure your needed tasks are engaged with fully.
Utilize Tools for Efficient Task Assignment
At our startup, we’ve made our work super organized and easy using a tool called ClickUp. It helps us delegate tasks, automate some things, track our work, and communicate with each other as a team.
ClickUp is basically our main control center.
It’s as simple as writing a short brief and tagging the team member who should do it. It’s quick and effective, keeping everyone on the same page about what needs to be done.
The most important thing when I hand out tasks is to make sure they fit with what each team member is good at and enjoys doing.
Even though we’re a small team, each person has their own specific job that matches what they’re good at and what they enjoy doing. This way, nobody gets overwhelmed with too much work, and everyone does things they enjoy.
I believe that giving people tasks that match their skills not only makes things run smoother but also makes the work atmosphere positive and productive.
So, when I delegate tasks, I think about making sure they’re a good fit for the task. It’s all about creating a balanced and happy team where everyone does their best work.
Consider Skill Proficiency and Learning Opportunities
Delegation in our startup is a dynamic process tailored to optimize our team’s diverse skill sets and learning opportunities. When I assign tasks, my approach is multifaceted. First, I align tasks with individual team members’ skill-level proficiencies, ensuring that their expertise will lead to high-quality outcomes.
For tasks that aren’t time-sensitive or critical, I delegate them as learning opportunities, promoting professional growth and development within the team. Additionally, I consider the collective knowledge of our team, especially for complex tasks.
By dividing these tasks based on our combined knowledge, we not only speed up the completion process but also enhance the team’s collaborative learning experience. Since our team is global and spread across various time zones, I pay close attention to equitable task distribution. I carefully consider each member’s current workload and their time zone to prevent overburdening anyone.
Overall, my approach to delegation aids in streamlining our workflow efficiently, while simultaneously nurturing a culture that values continuous learning and maintains a healthy work-life balance.
Tailor Tasks to Team Member Expertise
When delegating tasks within our startup team, I personally prioritize a combination of skill alignment and individual strengths. Reflecting on my own experiences, I make it a point to consider each team member’s unique expertise, competencies, and preferences.
In our team, we usually emphasize a tailored approach, understanding the capabilities of each member to assign tasks that align precisely with their skill sets. This personalized strategy, based on my expertise and knowledge, not only enhances overall productivity but also cultivates a collaborative and supportive team environment, a perspective I’ve gained from my personal journey in similar situations.
Empower Through Strength-Based Task Allocation
To efficiently delegate tasks within my startup team, I allow each team member to do what they’re equipped to do. Part of this includes one-on-one meetings that discuss their strengths (and weak points), and I encourage them to lean into and utilize those strengths in their day-to-day tasks. One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen among startups and small businesses is micromanagement from the executive level. I try to set expectations upfront and allow each member to do their job.
I meet with the team as a whole and assign each member a particular task to ensure they deliver on the necessary outcomes. I set the expectations on what one team member can expect from another. Additionally, I use a project management solution (in our case, it’s Basecamp), to document those tasks in detail, assign clear deliverables and due dates, and keep communication active among all team members.
This has proven to be pretty effective in keeping our team members engaged and hitting our milestones.
Humanize Workforce Through Personal Understanding
I do things a little differently (and this may not be a popular opinion). When assigning tasks, understanding human behavior is critical in running efficient and successful projects. Being considerate of the person behind the task list has been a game changer for any team I have supported. And this is so simple to implement!
Basically, I take the time to individually get to know my team—on a personal 1:1 level and how they operate on team calls. I pay close attention to how they articulate bandwidth issues to our team, and I also take note of the things that make them uncomfortable—i.e., where they voice that they aren’t as skilled at a certain task. That way, when task assignment comes around, I am able to speak with them and motivate them to get things done based on their individual working styles.
In such an automated and fast-paced world, we have to remember that there are real people behind these screens. Real power and authentic momentum result from humanizing your workforce.
Ensure Clarity in Task Delegation
When delegating a task to any team member, it is vital that there’s clarity. Instead of saying something like, “We should make sure to contact XYZ Corporation about becoming a customer of ours,” say something like, “Pat, I’d like for you to contact Bobby Smith at XYZ Corporation this week about them becoming a customer of ours. Please give me an update at our one-on-one next week.” By doing this, Pat will understand exactly what is expected of her, including the timeline.
Prioritize Open-Minded, Interested Team Members
It’s important to know if the team members to whom you are delegating particular tasks are up for them, are excited-ish, and want to do them. This comes down to your hiring process—I am constantly hunting for such team members because what I do is build startups, and as we all know, startups are chaos, and you will never know what skills you will randomly need one day. Hiring open-minded people who seem to show interest in all processes of a startup is a great way to acquire such talent.
Giving an employee a lot of work (within a limit) at once is effective. From my experience, giving a lot of work gets the work done faster than gradually assigning tasks. It helps people manage their time for all their tasks and not procrastinate. You should always ask how busy they are and if they are open to more tasks, of course.
Trust is the hardest part. Trusting someone to do the job as well as you could was the most challenging part for me to overcome, but after almost a decade of experience building startups and working with many different teams, I can say that I have fully overcome it. Real relationships and frequent contact with my employees helped me trust them in the long run.
Opt for Freelancers for Critical Tasks
The best way to delegate within your startup is to limit the number of “employees” you bring onto your team. Instead, work with freelancers and fractional team members who focus on a single or several critical tasks. By doing this, you are setting yourself up for excellence over mediocrity in each of the responsibilities necessary to grow your business.
Assign Tasks Based on Voluntary Interest
The best single indicator of future success is simpler than most think: ask members of the team who wants to take something on. An individual’s natural interest in a task, for whatever reason they may be interested, means there is strong conviction, and it’s more likely that they’ll be effective and efficient in getting the job done.
Use Trust to Upskill Team
I am very selective when hiring, specifically so that delegation becomes easier—otherwise, why hire these people at all?
I try to delegate as much as humanly possible, simply because I always ask myself, “Well, if I don’t trust this person to do this, then I would never have hired them in the first place, right?” This, I find, really helps me to relinquish control over various processes and leverage the skills of my people most effectively as I delegate until they have a full load of work, or work together with me to figure out how to make a stretch role work. It’s a good way to demonstrate trust in the team and to upskill your people naturally over time as you extend more and more projects their way.
Foster Ownership with Collaborative Brainstorming
Every Friday, we organize a team lunch, called “The Hot Idea Oven,” where all our associates are encouraged to pitch ideas regarding marketing and sales strategies. The person with the best idea is given funding (as per the requirements to execute the person’s idea) and is commended in our company’s monthly newsletter. Any revenue generated with the help of that idea is also shared with the associate who came up with it, generally up to 10% of the total net sales generated through that idea.
This strategy helps us to make our associates feel like a part of the executive team, and they are behind the wheel, taking big decisions. It also fosters a feeling of ownership in the associates, which ultimately encourages collaborative brainstorming.
I am a firm believer in “passion” before “skills,” as I believe passion trumps skills every time. Of course, skills can be polished, but passion drives innovation, and hence, for assigning tasks within our team members, we look for associates that are eager to step outside their comfort zone and tackle new challenges. This growth mindset keeps our team adaptable and future-proof.
In our legal process outsourcing startup, the type of task at hand also plays a big role in deciding who gets to work on it. For example, we have a few associates who are experts at examining evidence, whereas some are experts at reviewing contracts. The type of task and its domain is a deciding factor in who gets to work on it.
Measure Task Impact for Effective Delegation
In a startup, you always have limited resources, so you have to be thinking about opportunity cost in a way that big companies often don’t. You may need to delegate a task to someone who will do it slower and less effectively than you if that frees you up to complete a higher-value task.
The best approach is to try and create relative measurements of impact for each task, along with team members’ proficiency at each—if you multiply these, you can have an “outcome score,” as we call it internally. Rate everything on the same scale from 1 to 10. For example, if I am a 5/10 at social media marketing and scheduling our social media calendar is a 5/10 importance, that would be a 25/100 impact score in terms of me doing the social media calendar.
From there, set up a weekly plan that has the highest sum of outcome scores. Needless to say, if someone cannot complete a task, you don’t need to worry about creating an outcome score for them.
Distribute Tasks Based on Complexity
It’s based on complexity. If we can’t automate a task, we’ll pass it to a VA. If the task requires experience, we’ll pass the task to a lower-level employee. We try to keep a hierarchy for tasks where lower-level employees tackle more manual work, while higher-ups tackle more strategic decisions. It’s all based on the complexity of the task and who’s the best person to pass the task to.