How to Find the Right Person and Train Them, Part II

In our last post we listed a number of strategies to help identify the right people to delegate to and then train them to get the work done. In this post, we will unpack each of these further.

To examine each of these criteria more deeply, let’s analyze a decision I made as Head of school to delegate new work to Laurie. When I arrived at the school, Laurie’s title was Office Manager. She served many roles, including managing front-office staff, keeping my calendar, and managing substitutes for absent teachers. She also was tasked to some seasonal work relating to student registration, mailings, and the like.

After completing a 5-year Strategic Plan during my first year on the job, it was clear that we needed to attend to many areas that had previously been neglected by our fledgling independent school with limited resources. One such area was hiring an admissions director, a role that had been filled de facto by our assistant head of school. Another was to invest more manpower into marketing.

In an attempt to address both issues simultaneously, I approached Laurie with a proposal. We would relieve her of some of her managerial and clerical duties and make her our combined Admissions and Marketing Director. To me, this move made sense in part because Laurie had graduated college years earlier with a marketing degree, so at least some of the skills were already there.

The move was a win-win.

The school moved the needle in some important areas. While this was not the full staffing level recommended by our accrediting agency, we at least began the process of directing more attention and resources to those areas.

Laurie was super excited because these new tasks were squarely in her wheelhouse. She’d be able to demonstrate her creative spirit and enthusiasm about the school with her marketing work and each time she interacted with a prospective family. She also received a promotion and a 10% raise in her base salary.

Let’s now revisit our list of delegation factors to see how good a “fit” Laurie was for this new position.

  1. The experience, knowledge and skills of the individual. Laurie held a marketing undergraduate degree which she hadn’t really used professionally. And, as she was now in her 50s, much of what she had learned had become obsolete. The good news was that, in addition to her basic education and intuition, she had worked in our school for many years and possessed an intimate understanding of the market.

  2. The person’s current schedule and workload. Though Laurie remained the Office Manager in title, we were able to redirect many of her tasks elsewhere. She did also commit to working added hours to complete her new tasks.

  3. The individual’s preferred work style. Laurie was an independent worker who collaborated well as needed. She was well respected and many people’s trusted listening ear, so she was able to advance projects with relative ease.

  4. The subordinate’s personal goals. Laurie had not communicated her personal goals prior to this time. She was a selfless person, so she was largely content to allow the school’s goals drive her own.

  5. The delegatee’s passion. Laurie was a team player that, for the most part, would do what she was asked. She had begun at the school as a volunteer and had filled many roles over the years. This was the first time that her passions and job description would fully align.

  6. Someone to groom. This was not about grooming Laurie, though she would develop her skill set further with this new role.

  7. The project’s flexibility. This was a flexible process which allowed Laurie latitude to make recommendations and experiment with various approaches.

  8. The availability of training resources. My assistant head of school would oversee aspects of her work at first and provide guidance. Laurie also enrolled in some training programs.

  9. Opportunities for practice. Coming from near-nothing in the areas of marketing and admissions, Laurie would have plenty of opportunity to practice and “get it right”. We would support her in this process and help her set goals to drive performance.

Provide adequate training

Finding the right person to delegate to may not be enough. Often, that person – experienced or not – is going to need to learn new concepts and skills to do their job correctly and efficiently.

One of the first questions you want to ask is, “what do you need to learn in order to do this task properly?” Once s/he has responded, add whatever you feel may still be missing. At that point, work to determine how s/he is going to get the needed training. Examples may include:

  • College course

  • Training seminar

  • Online video

  • Books and magazines

  • Mentor

  • Coach

  • Peer observation

  • LinkedIn or Facebook group

Of course, the greatest learning tool is most often experience. And no matter what resources you make available, there needs to be allowance for the kinds of errors that will ultimately produce clarity and confidence.

As Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho put it, “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” To delegate is a brave step for both of you. But if you have the right person and are clear on what needs to be achieved, you will each appreciate that you did it.