- School Leadership ReimaginedHow to Cut Down Your To Do List

​How to Cut Down Your To Do List

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You're listening to the School Leadership Reimagined Podcast, episode number twentyfour.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast...

where we rethink what's possible to transform your school. If you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now, here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Hey Builders, welcome to episode 24 of the School Leadership Reimagined podcast. I’m your host, Robyn Jackson.

Take a look at your “to do” list right now.

Now ask yourself: How many of those tasks on your “to do” list could and should be done by someone else?

I bet you have at least one.

And that’s because as educators, we often make TERRIBLE delegators.

And yet, if you are going to do the work that is really important, the work that only you can do, you NEED to delegate.

You probably knew that already.

So why don’t we delegate more? What’s stopping us?

In my work with school leaders, I’ve discovered 2 BIG barriers to delegation.

First, many of us have tried in the past to delegate and found that if you want something done right, it’s easier to do it yourself.

Or, we’ve tried to delegate and it took so long to do so that it would have just been faster if we had done the task ourselves.

Well today, you’re going to learn how to overcome both of those obstacles and finally get some things OFF your “to do” list.

That’s right, today you’re going to learn how to delegate #likeabuilder.

But before I dive in,

I want to talk to you about a big problem I see Builders facing. You know how you start out the year all full of the plans for improving your school this school year? And you might be making better progress towards your goals, if only your people would cooperate.

I get it. It’s hard to maintain momentum throughout the year when you have people dragging their feet or not fully invested in reaching your goals. That’s why you really need to come to Builder’s Lab 2019.

Because at Builder’s Lab 2019 you’ll take a good look at where you are right now in the year and get your staff recommitted and taking real action to achieve those goals you set at the beginning of the year THIS year.

At Builders’ Lab, you’ll learn the four things you need to do to get your staff moving consistently towards your school goals.

First, you’ll discover how to overcome toxic cultures and build a more positive culture where everyone is treating each other with respect.

Once you get the culture straight, you’ll learn to give your teachers feedback they will actually act on without pushback or hurt feelings or blank stares.  

Then you’ll learn how to provide follow up and support for teachers to help them consistently improve throughout the year.

And finally, you’ll learn how to help teachers stay accountable for their part in achieving school goals without having to resort to writing people up or having really tense conversations with teachers.

This year doesn’t have to be a wash. There is still time for you to get people on board and make a difference in your school THIS SCHOOL YEAR. Go to mindstepsinc.com/Builders-Lab to get your ticket and let’s figure out together how to get your people moving in the right direction towards your school goals. 

Ok, so let’s talk about delegation, and I should admit right off the bat, that this is something I struggle with too.

I think the main reason a lot of us struggle with delegation is because we tell ourselves that it is just easier to do it ourselves.

Well let’s unpack that idea a little bit.

Is it really easier to do it ourselves?

On the surface it seems so. I mean by the time you explain how you want something done to someone else, you could have done it already.

But that’s short sighted thinking because sure, you could have done it yourself faster than explaining it to someone else but if it is a recurring task, you can invest the time to explain it to somebody once and NEVER have to do that task again.

So if it’s a 5 minute task and it has to be done once a week, then over a year you would spend what’s that, 260 minutes you’ve spent throughout the year. What’s that in hours? About 4 and a half hours? So, if it takes you less than 4 and a half hours to show someone else how to do it and then you NEVER have to do that task again, then you are saving yourself time.

Here’s another myth we have. We think that no one can do the job as well as we do it. You know, “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.”

First of all, That’s not entirely true. Most tasks worthy of delegation are things that someone else can do as well if not better than you can.

Second, you need to ask yourself:

If it’s not perfect, if it’s close to perfect, is that enough?


For instance, maybe no one else can set up the teacher appreciation breakfast table as well as you can. But so what? Is that the best use of your time setting up the table or should you be at the door personally greeting teachers and deepening relationships?

Or maybe no one can create a data table like you can. You are an excel beast. But could someone create a table for you and you spend your time going through the data rather than tinkering with the formatting so that it’s pretty?

The point is, this myth has a ton of ego built into it. In most cases you can train someone to do that task as well or better than you do it. So shouldn’t you invest the time up front to teach someone else how to do certain tasks as well or better than you can so that you can focus your time and energy on the things that ONLY you can do?

There’s one final myth about delegation that we have as educators that really needs to go.

We don’t want to delegate because we don’t want to come across as being authoritarian. 

Cut that out. It’s not rude to ask someone else to do some work so that you can focus on the work that is most important for you to do. And if you delegat the RIGHT way, people will feel honored to take that work off your hands.

In fact, all three of these myths go away when you delegate the right way. So let’s talk about the RIGHT way to delegate.

The first thing you need to understand is that there are actually 6 levels of delegation. Before you delegate a task you need to be clear about what level of delegation you are using.

Level One delegation...

is basically “do as I say.” That means that you are going to tell someone exactly what to do and then expect them to do it exactly as you told them. This level of delegation means that you need to think through the task in detail ahead of time and figure out what must be done, how must it be done, and when must it be done. You tell the other person exactly what to do and expect them to do it exactly as you specify.

So for instance, you may give someone the exact template you want them to use for the parent newsletter or the exact way you want your files set up. There is no room for improv here. I remember when I wanted my secretary to set up my files, I gave her a written checklist of what goes in the files and in what order and I gave her a sample file she could use as an example. That way I set her up for success. You can do the same thing. 

Level Two delegation...

is Look Into This. That means that you want someone to do some research on a task and then give you several options. Once you have the options you can decide how you want to proceed next. For instance, if you are looking for a caterer for a staff luncheon you can delegate the task and have someone research and give you three options and you decide on the final option. Or if you are looking for a new English teacher, you can set very clear criteria for what you are looking for and have the English Department Chair look through the resumes you’ve received and cull the list down to 4 or 5 finalists. At this level, you still need to be really clear about your criteria but once you are clear, you can trust someone else to do the early leg work, bring you their recommendations based on your criteria and you make the final decision. 

Level Three delegation...

is give me your advice and I’ll decide. That means that you want someone to explore the various options and make a recommendation to you as to what they think is the best option but you will make the final decision. So for instance, suppose you are looking at various reading programs. You can set very clear criteria for the program and have a person or a committee do the research and the leg work and bring you the program that they believe best fits the criteria. After they make their case, you make the final decision. 

Level Four delegation...

is Explore, decide and check with me. That means that you want them to figure out the best way to do something and simply check in with you to make sure it’s okay before proceeding. So for instance, you can delegate the lunch room coverage schedule to someone else, they work out the schedule and then show it to you for final approval before implementing it. This gives you a chance to weigh in but doesn’t get you bogged down in figuring things out for yourself. 

Level Five delegation...

is to Explore, decide within these limits. That means that you want them to figure it out on their own and make a decision within certain constraints. This one is harder to do because it means that you leave the final decision to someone else.This is a great way to develop other builders in your building but you have to do it right. First, you have to be okay with giving someone else the final decision. The way that you can be okay with letting go some of the power is that you invest first in making sure that you have some clear criteria in place and some clear boundaries. This is the part that most people skip and it’s what creates all the issues.

Say for instance you want to delegate a professional development day to your instructional coach. Then the coach goes off and plans a whole day and when you see the plans you’re like, oh no this isn’t what I wanted. We need to be focusing on that or i wanted something more interactive or whatever.

Has that happened to you before? You try to delegate to someone and leave it up to them and they do something entirely different than what you had in mind.

Well that’s because you didn’t take enough time on the front end to make things clear. So you need to do that. What is your expectation? What are the boundaries?

For instance, I once was working with a grade level team and they were planning a cross-curricular unit. I was getting WAY too involved in the whole thing and it was getting frustrating to them. Plus, I was getting frustrated because I was working on the project instead of working on what I really wanted to work on.

So finally I said, “look, this isn’t working. I tell you what. Let’s sit down and come up with some parameters around this project. Once we do, I’m going to leave it to you.”

So we agreed on some parameters like the project couldn’t take more than 3 weeks, had to be aligned with the curriculum standards, had to have a capstone experience that encompassed the 4 core subjects, and couldn’t cost more than $500 total.

I think there were a few more but I can’t remember them now. Besides, you get the point. I set parameters.

Guess what? The project was a huge success. And guess what else? I didn’t have to touch it.

Level Six delegation...

is Take Care of it For me. That means that you want them to do everything and deliver the results you’re after without checking in with you along the way. Again, this one is hard to do and you wouldn’t do it for everything but it can be really useful if you are trying to develop the Buildership of others on your team.

Again, you need to make sure that you’re in agreement around your core values, your mission, and the vision for the project. Then you can trust others to carry out those core values and mission and vision without needing to micro manage along the way.

Okay, so let me give you a really simple example so that you can see how these 6 levels of delegation work.

For example, suppose you want your secretary to make travel arrangements for you for an upcoming trip to Builder’s Lab 2019 (hint hint).

Level One delegation means that you would investigate the flights and hotels yourself and give her exactly what you want your itinerary to look like. Her job is to simply make the reservations and type up everything in an itinerary.

Level Two delegation means that you want her send you a list of flight options and hotel options and then you pick the ones that work best for you. Once you pick, you tell her what you want and she books them for you.

Level Three delegation means that you would ask her to look at the various options and send you what she come up with but highlight what she think is the best itinerary for you and if you agree, she makes the reservation. If you don’t agree, you can tell her what you prefer instead.

Level Four delegation means that you ask her to come up with the best itinerary for you and then check with you before she makes the reservations.

Level Five Delegation would mean that you ask her to make all your reservations for you and there is no need to check with you first as long as she remembers that you only want a direct flight and you only want to stay in Marriott hotels. As long as she can create an itinerary within those guidelines, you’re happy.

Level Six Delegation means that she would figure out what she thinks is the best itinerary for you, make all the reservations and send you a completed itinerary.

The idea here is that if you can figure out what level of delegation you want before you assign the task, you can be very clear about what you need done and be more likely to actually get it done the way you want it done.

Okay, so once you figure out what level of delegation you need, the next step is to identify the resources that they need in order to complete the task successfully. Do they need your travel rewards membership numbers? Do they need a template to follow? Do they need a checklist? Set people up for success by giving them the resources they need.

Next, list your limits if you have any. For instance, is there a budget limit or a time limit? Are there certain criteria. Any limits you have, list them.

Next, list the criteria for success. This lets people know what the successful completion of the task will actually look like.

Finally, let them know if and when they should contact you. For instance, if they can’t find a flight that meets your criteria, they should call you with other options? Or, if they run into a roadblock, should they bring you in?

The idea here is to be as clear as possible. That way you can successful delegate tasks and be confident that they will actually get done to your specifications.

Once you get used to delegating this way, you’ll find that delegation will get a LOT easier and you can free yourself up to focus on the work that only you can do.

So let’s review quickly those 6 levels of delegation one more time:

Level One delegation is basically do as I say. That means that you are going to tell someone exactly what to do and then expect them to do it exactly as you told them.

Level Two Delegation is Look Into This. That means that you want someone to do some research on a task and then give you several options. Once you have the options you can decide how you want to proceed next.

Level Three Delegation is give me your advice and I’ll decide. That means that you want someone to explore the various options and make a recommendation to you as to what they think is the best option but you will make the final decision.

Level Four Delegation is Explore, decide and check with me. That means that you want them to figure out the best way to do something and simply check in with you to make sure it’s okay before proceeding.

Level Five Delegation is to Explore, decide within these limits. That means that you want them to figure it out on their own and make a decision within certain constraints.

Level Six Delegation is Take Care of it For me. That means that you want them to do everything and deliver the results you’re after without checking in with you along the way.

Now here’s the thing.

You don’t need to delegate EVERYTHING. 

That’s called abdication not delegation. 

But, you probably need to delegate far more than you do now. And that’s because you really need to carve out time and space to focus on the things that are within your zone of genius, the things that only you can do rather than waste time and energy on things that others could be doing as well or better than you.

So right now I want you to go through all the things you have on your plate right now and ask yourself. Is this something I really should be doing or is this something I can delegate?

And then I want you to take those tasks and delegate them #likeabuilder.

#LikeABuilder

Okay, now before we go,..

Now, before we go, don’t forget to get your ticket to Builder’s Lab 2019. If you want to find out how to get your people on board and moving so that you can still reach your goals THIS year, even the resistant nay-sayers or the people who are just plain stuck, then you need to come to Builder’s Lab 2019. Just go to www.mindstepsinc.com/builders-lab and get your ticket now.  

Next week...

Okay, next time I’m going to tackle a couple of questions you sent into me on LinkedIn. Both of them have to do with the same basic principle. You’re a school leader and you have a real sense of urgency. But change is taking a long time. You’re starting to see progress but it’s not going as quickly as you want. You don’t want to be a bully and start issuing orders, but you are frustrated with how slowly people are moving. 

So next time we’re going to find out how to handle the messy middle #LikeABuilder.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

Thank you for listening to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads visit https://schoolleadershipreimagined.com/

School Leadership Reimagined is brought to you by Mindsteps Inc, where we build a master teachers.