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I have been doing a lot of podcast interviews lately. (Thank you, Your Expert Guest.) It has given me the opportunity to speak to many different audiences and communities, from architects to bookkeepers, to women lawyers and moms running businesses. I particularly like the podcasts with spicy titles like one I did last year, “Permission to Kick Ass”.

I usually am asked for our “origin story”, or “how Athena came to be” and frankly that is a fun story that makes me smile every time I share it! Then the Podcaster and I usually dive into conversations around the VA industry. What all is out there? What is there to choose from?

We explore some of the challenges people deal with in deciding whether or not to hire a VA, and I am very frank and transparent in my answers. 

On a recent podcast I dove a little deeper into the topic of delegation. I wanted to start to share about where I found access to real freedom in my life. By freedom, I mean more time for me to do the things I most enjoy in life, or more time to spend where I am needed most, or in the areas that are the highest and best use of me and my talents. Previously I had been talking about how to delegate, all while saying to myself in my head, “Ya, this is good. People should delegate stuff and get things off their plate, but what they really need to do is this.

So, what is the this that I think is the big deal? It involves delegating for sure, but this is graduate level delegation. It can be discovered in the kind of delegating and partnership that you find with someone that is beyond giving them tasks and projects to do. Beyond making sure invoices go out on time (and yet, that better happen!), beyond just regular updates to your CRM and booking your travel.

I was being interviewed by Davina Frederick of Wealthy Woman Lawyer and I started talking about delegating thinking. I thought to myself, “Well, let’s just go there and see if I can start to speak somewhat intelligently about this.” Again, this is where I think the real freedom lies.

Yes, the graduate level delegation is delegating thinking. Consider saying to your assistant (or someone who reports to you) something like:

“Go think about this please.”
“Go research this and tell me what you think and what questions you have.”
“What questions should I have?”

The other graduate level delegation skill is to delegate an entire process or project, knowing that your assistant or whomever is working for you, doesn’t know much about the topic. And perhaps neither do you! Rather than me doing the initial research to figure something out and then delegating smaller pieces and parts of the next steps, I give the entire project to someone. After I explain what I think I want and what I’m after (having done very little research myself) I then say, “This project is yours. I know you’ve never done this before, and neither have I. No problem. You please dive in. Lead the charge. Do some initial research. Let me know what you learn, what you think, what you see next steps might be and then let’s talk.”

After this, the project is theirs. It belongs to them. Now I work for them. Now I work for my assistant. My job is now to be a useful, valuable, responsive team player.

Once they get me educated on the basics about a topic (such as possible new payroll software, how to self-publish a book, or how to charter a yacht for a week, or different options available around the United States for personal wellness retreats, or any number of things I have wanted or needed to do and know nothing about), now I have more useful questions and concerns and ideas. They also need answers from me. So, I drive up more questions. I also give them answers to what I can and then off they go to continue managing and driving the project. The project is again theirs. I’m there to help them win at what they are doing, rather than them here to help me get what I want done.

I hope you’ll now experiment with delegating thinking or, delegating whole projects and systems that “they” can then own while you become the support staff.

This whole idea does not have as much to do with the caliber of assistant that you have, as you might think it does. Some of you are thinking, “Well yeah, if I had a more senior person to delegate to, someone with more business knowledge and acumen, I might be able to do that.” Au contraire.

When you delegate more than you think someone can handle, or more than you think they are equipped to do, you will find out what they really are capable of! They may not be able to do 100% of what you have asked, but you may find that they can accomplish 90% and previously you would have bet they could only do 70%, but you got surprised while discovering that they are more capable than you thought.

So… go experiment…and get surprised!

Gina Cotner, CEO, Athena Executive Services


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