Delegation Challenge – Days 3-8

Here’s an update on the 30-day delegation challenge with today (Monday) being Day 8.

Day 3

After building some momentum on the first two days, I decided to take a more introspective day here and spent about 75 minutes journaling about teamwork possibilities. I wrote up a description of what my ideal team would look like, what their values could be, and then what I could discern about a potential hiring process from that.

Here are some of the values I listed, copied straight from that journal entry:

Caring – This is a biggie. There’s fake caring, and there’s real caring, and we need to be all about the genuine side. We should assume that our intentions are transparent to the world. It’s important that we care deeply about personal growth, about helping others grow, and about creating a more conscious and growth-oriented world. A big part of our motivation should stem from our sense of caring and connectedness. When someone joins CGC or attends a live event, it should be obvious that we genuinely care and that we aren’t just faking it. I don’t think we need to call out this impact or contribution as a separate value since our sense of caring will naturally flow into that. If we meaningfully and consistently express our caring, we’ll positively impact people’s lives.

Truth – A dedication to truth is hard. We need to be a team that doesn’t settle for easy answers if they aren’t actually aligned with truth. Sometimes new truths will emerge that will scare us, especially in a world of increasingly rapid change, and we need to turn towards them and face them.

Elegance – Elegant solutions can be tough to find, but this should be the ideal that we strive for. This encompasses efficiency and effectiveness too. If our solutions are inelegant in some areas, it should be in our nature to remain open to better approaches.

Intelligence – We’re smart people serving smart people. We cater to a bright, self-aware audience. We don’t dumb down our ideas to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Our offerings are rationally beneficial.

Exploration – We must be willing to tear down old patterns. We can’t just wait for change to happen to us. We need to keep seeking new possibilities.

Adaptability – The world will keep changing faster and faster as time goes by. Change will keep us on our toes, and it will knock us out of our comfort zones again and again. We’ll need to get used to riding waves of change. We’ll need to stay flexible.

Fun – This goes without saying. We’re playful, fun-loving people with a healthy sense of humor.

Sustainable growth – We approach growth as a long-term investment, both as individuals and as a team. We like to challenge ourselves.

Here are some thoughts I journaled about how to find good team members:

What does this tell me about how I should approach the process of recruiting potential team members?

First, the skills need to be there. Values alignment matters, but there really shouldn’t be any conversation about working together unless the skills are there. For a small team, each person needs to bring some significant value-add to the picture.

It’s relatively easy to find people from my audience who want to work together and who have aligned values. But many don’t have much to offer in terms of skills and work ethic. So it would be wise to test for this up front for certain positions. I like the way Stu McLaren approaches this by having people do a simple series of online tasks to test their skills before he even considers interviewing them. If they don’t complete the test intelligently, there’s no need for further follow up. Others have recommended this approach too. As one experienced team builder told me, “There’s no conversation about working together unless the skills are there.”

I’ve also seen entrepreneurial friends suffer when they have team members whose skills just aren’t up to par, even if the values alignment is strong. It’s a headache to have to redo work, so the quality needs to be there up front. It’s normal that someone may need training on how to do tasks a certain way of course, but this too is a case of “fit or fold.”

Another recommendation is to have a tentative probationary period after bringing on someone new. See how they work out without making a bigger commitment just yet. A typical period is 90 days. This allows time to see if a healthy working relationship can be achieved. If it’s not mutually beneficial, then the intelligent choice is to let the person go and try again with someone else.

This is going to take patience. It’s not the sort of thing to be raced into. If someone just wants a job and there’s a sense of urgency about pushing things forward faster than is rational for this type of team, that’s an easy no. We need people who actually want to invest in a long-term relationship.

Is there evidence of long-term dedication to personal growth as an individual? What has this person done to invest in themselves in the past few years? How have they embraced challenges? Have they been willing to stretch themselves? Have they tasted failure and bounced back? The interview process should draw out these answers. If the person has a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, there should be plenty of evidence of it.

Does the person care about helping other people grow? If the caring is genuine, then there should be good evidence that this person has helped and supported others on their paths of growth. We ought to be able to find others who can attest to this. If all we can see is self-absorption, we should keep looking. We can’t settle for pretending to care.

Our business goes against the social grain in some ways. There are aspects of conscious growth that can oppose mainstream attitudes. We need people who can handle this, including those who can handle being judged for their roles in such a business without running away screaming. We need people who see this as an opportunity for leadership, without apology or timidity. So we should look for evidence of deliberate non-mainstream choices and a willingness to deal with the consequences of such choices. We need people who won’t cave to societal pressures when they believe they’re right. If someone can do this as an individual, they’ll likely be even better as part of a like-minded team.

Does the person have a good head on their shoulders? Do they seem bright and self-aware? Do they give thoughtful answers to questions?

Can this person handle a culture of playfulness and good humor? Can they balance a playful style of working with professionalism and competence? Are they willing to inject some personality into their work?

One mistake I made in the past was spending too much time talking to people about working together when they didn’t have relevant skills and experience. I meet a lot of wonderful, heart-centered, growth-oriented people, so finding people with like-minded values is relatively easy. For some other entrepreneurial friends, matching on values is harder.

Some people are keen to look for values first and then train people on the necessary skills. I find that approach limiting since I can only train people up to my own skill level at best, which means my knowledge and skills still cap what’s possible, at least initially. I think I’d be better off looking for people who have strengths in areas where I’m weak.

This bit of clarity can save me time since it helps me accept that there’s no need to advance a discussion with someone about working together if I’m not excited about their skills and experience. If I’m only enthusiastic about their values, that points to potential friendship but not really to being teammates, at least not anytime soon. Skills aren’t everything, but they do matter.

Day 4

During our usual group coaching call in Conscious Growth Club this morning, I delegated the opening educational segment to a member who volunteered to do it. This was the second week in a row that we did that. Up to this point, I’d been doing these segments personally since we started doing these calls in August 2017, so this has been a nice change of pace.

A fun stretch goal for this challenge would be to see if we could do a whole coaching call where I’m not personally doing any parts of it, including the coaching itself – and have it still provide good value to our members. I might attend the call just as an observer, but I wouldn’t have to do any actual coaching. I still like doing the coaching calls, but it would be a really amazing experience to see coaching happening without doing it personally each time. I just want to make sure we can do this in a way that still serves our members. I do think that’s increasingly possible though.

This is also an area where values can matter a great deal even without special skills or training. There’s a skill set to coaching that comes from experience, but just being a person who really cares about helping others can go a long way too. Even if you aren’t sure how to help someone, being able to listen, encourage someone, believe in someone, and help someone consider options can still be very helpful. I feel like we’ll be exploring this values-skills balance in coaching for many years to come.

Coaching is an area in which I know I’m going to have to delegate more in order to scale. I could probably still do the coaching personally if we doubled our membership (with some modifications), but I can’t see myself handling more than that without burning out. So I’ll have to lean further into delegation in this area. Encouraging members who want to explore co-coaching each other seems like a good step in this direction.

Just taking on this challenge has been shifting my sense of possibility, even before the challenge began. It makes me question my assumptions about what I must do personally – and then I end up relaxing some of those assumptions. This challenge is helping me ask for more help and social support too, even when I previously felt it would be too much of a stretch to do so.

A key realization I had was recognizing that delegation can be good for other people too. In CGC it can create more opportunities for members to stretch themselves, face fears, and step into leadership roles – all good. I think I had this previous limiting belief that I’d be abdicating responsibility if I leaned in this direction.

I see now that if I want to grow the interior of the business, such as by building a team, I need to create a more porous membrane around the business. I can’t maintain a solid wall between the inside and the outside, such as by maintaining sharp dividers between customer and staff member. I have to allow for more possibilities for people to cross this border. Otherwise the interior can never grow – and by extension, the exterior too.

This part makes me a little nervous. A porous border takes me outside of my comfort zone. It’s less predictable. I know my business inside and out since I’ve been running it since 2004. It’s a little freaky to move away from the tried and true.

To use a Star Wars analogy, this leans me further in the direction of thinking about my role as Yoda instead of as Luke Skywalker, encouraging each member to discover and pursue their own Hero’s Journey. Then again, Yoda lives in a stinky swamp which discourages all but the most determined visitors, so perhaps that isn’t such a good analogy. 🙂

I capped this day off by doing more journaling to clarify what I’d like to gain from this 30-day experiment. I didn’t want to merely engage in random outsourcing for a month, so I thought about what kind of progression I could layer onto this.

I ended up with this possible progression:

  1. Outsource some personal tasks to get into the mindset and check off a few items (pool lights, recirculator pump installation, etc).
  2. Get a new landscaper hired (could be concurrent with #1).
  3. Document the process of doing the CGC weekly email (including scheduling the coaching call), and get to the point where Rachelle handles it from end to end.
  4. Outsource some simple business tasks (transcription, etc) via Upwork and Fiverr to learn the ropes of those services.
  5. Document some processes for a VA, and determine my initial needs.
  6. Start looking into VA services to find and hire a part-time VA.

I’m not sure if I’ll stick to this progression since this is new territory for me, and it’s hard to predict how far I’ll actually get in 30 days, but the fact that I’m making some nice progress already is pretty obvious.

Day 5

Here’s the progress log update I posted in the CGC forums for this day:

Thanks to working with Magic, our new hot water recirculating pump is now installed and working within established parameters.

I don’t think Magic handled this in the most efficient way, but they definitely helped get things moving forward. They had to call a lot of people to find someone who could do the job. I can’t fault them for all of that, however, since Vegas does have issues with flaky contractors. I do feel relieved that this job is finally done and off my plate. It’s a little unreal that it got done the same week this challenge began since I’d managed to put it off for years.

I like that Magic handled the hard part by finding someone to do the job, which required some welding and plumbing work.

The pool light fix is in progress too. There’s a shorted out part that supplies power to the lights that needs replacing, which should be handled next week.

I must say that it was really cool having this done. But after several hours had passed, I realized I wasn’t feeling great about how much I’d spent on my first two tasks. I was on Magic’s pay-as-you-go plan for 59 cents per minute ($35/hour). They’d spent about 83 minutes on one task and nearly 4 hours on another. If I’d signed up for one of their monthly subscription plans instead, I’d have paid only $20-30 per task no matter how long each task took. I’d made a poor choice when I signed up, and even though I could afford the mistake, I wasn’t feeling good about my decision and was experiencing a bit of buyer’s remorse over it.

So I sent Magic an email later that day. I explained the situation and asked if I could either get a partial refund for these tasks or upgrade to a subscription plan retroactively. They were happy to oblige – I love good support! – and I’m now on their middle plan that allows up to 16 requests for $399 per month, bringing the price per task down to $25. I also referred a couple of people to Magic along the way and picked up two referral credits, so effectively I still have 16 more tasks at this point. And Magic removed all previous charges other than the new $399 subscription.

That felt very fair to me. No more buyer’s remorse. This per-request subscription upgrade means that I don’t need to fuss over how long Magic spends on a given task. My cost per request is the same whether it takes them 10 minutes or a few hours.

But upgrading to 16 requests in a month (really 25 more days at this point) is also a stretch experience. That’s a lot more outsourcing to do. How will I come up with that many tasks to outsource within the next 3-1/2 weeks?

What I don’t yet understand is what constitutes a single request and how far that definition can be stretched. Could I say to Magic, “Plan me a 3-week trip to Hawaii for the Fall that includes at least 3 islands, including Oahu,” and only have that count as one request? I imagine probably not. So I’d like to get a better feel for their limits. So far I’m feel good about continuing to use Magic, and now I have a lot more requests to use during the span of this trial.

I’d like to try other outsourcing services during this time too, but I also find it appealing to make a bigger bet on a single service and go for depth. This reminds me of the Mile Wide, Mile Deep approach that I shared in 2016.

Day 6

On Saturday I asked Magic to help get rid of an old weight training set that’s been sitting in my garage collecting dust for the past 11 years. I let them know that it was their choice regarding how to dispose of it – donate it to charity, find someone to take it for free, junk it, etc.

The set is nothing fancy, and I later replaced it with better equipment but never got around to getting rid of this old set. I tried donating it to charity once, but the charity wouldn’t take it pre-assembled.

Magic is currently working on this task now. They already identified a couple of local charities that might want it. And if they can’t find a charity to take it, they suggested posting on Craigslist to see if another Vegas local wants to take it away.

I like how easy it is to get a simple process like this one moving forward just by snapping a photo and sending a text. It really gets the ball rolling.

I also like that when Magic has to do some work on a task in the background, they tell me when I can expect another update from them. In this case they told me to expect an update at 5pm on Monday.

This felt like a good task to delegate since it involves some simple problem solving that I don’t have to do now. I just defined the result I wanted – basically to make this item disappear from my garage – and someone else gets to creatively figure out how to accomplish that.

I also did a few other modest delegation-related activities to polish off the day, including emailing Magic to ask for clarification on what constitutes a single request.

Day 7

Here’s the progress log update I posted in the CGC forums for this day:

Today I spent some time reviewing my to-dos and compiling a list of tasks I could potentially outsource to Magic within the next 3 weeks. I came up with about 20 ideas, but a few are questionable. I don’t really see the value in using Magic to book simple appointments since I could probably do that myself in less time than it would take to explain it to them. A 2-minute phone call doesn’t seem like a great candidate for outsourcing.

I’m gradually developing a sense of what types of tasks are suitable for outsourcing and which aren’t.

I still have credits for 15 more tasks to assign Magic, so I may need to get a bit creative to use them.

I’d also like to explore Upwork and Fiverr and get a sense of how I might leverage them.

One idea I had was to find a WordPress developer who can code up a custom post type (CPT) that I can use for the coaching calls, which would make it slightly easier to add new call recordings to the portal. I’m capable of doing this since I already created a CPT for the News section of my website, but it might be a good experiment to see if I could outsource the coding, which shouldn’t be particularly complicated.

Additionally if we got this CPT done, it would make it that much easier to have someone else publish the call recordings to the portal (like Rachelle). The current method is pretty easy (via Beaver Builder), but it could be even simpler with a CPT.

I’m not sure about this WordPress coding task though. Given my current skills and the fact that I’ve done a similar task before, I could easily see myself spending more time defining and explaining the task and finding someone competent to do it than just doing it myself. But as someone pointed out, the real value might be in finding a good WordPress developer that I could work with more than once. So I might lose time on the first task but save time on future tasks. Right now I’m not even sure what those future tasks might be, but it seems clear that in some areas, delegation doesn’t make much sense unless we approach it as a long-term investment.

I feel like I’m doing a good job pacing myself with this challenge so far. It can feel a bit stressful to stretch beyond my comfort zone, so having a mixture of more introspective days (where I’m mostly journaling about ideas, possibilities, and next steps) and some direct delegation days feels like the right way to go. I don’t just want to have a crazy 30 days filled with random activity. I want to shift my thinking and behaviors sustainably.

Day 8

Today I’m working with Rachelle on moving one step further towards having her take over the weekly CGC emails. She’s writing that email presently. I expect it to take one more week to delegate the entire process to her, including scheduling the coaching calls in Zoom, creating the discussion thread in the CGC forums, and writing and sending the emails. None of this is difficult, but it will save me a little time each week. And she’s already doing a better job of this than I was by adding a section about forum activity highlights to these emails.

I realize that much of delegation is about chipping away at the little things. Saving 10 minutes a week on a task may not seem like much, but if we get into the habit of offloading such tasks, the time adds up. Moreover, I can see that my focus will improve over time if I keep this up.

As I was writing this, I heard back from Magic again. They’ve explored some possibilities for getting rid of the old gym equipment. In fact, they came up with a possible solution that I didn’t even think of. They found a local gym about 10 minutes away that’s willing to email its members to see if anyone wants the equipment for free. Wow… not a bad idea. Magic is still going to see if they can find a charity to take it first, but if that doesn’t pan out, this makes for a decent backup option.

I like that Magic is considering my priorities/values in this situation. Donating the item to charity feels the most aligned to me, especially since I’m not in a rush. If a charity turns around and sells it, I’m fine with that too. Next would be to find an individual who might want it. And worst case would be to junk it.

I also like that I can remain detached from how this actually gets solved and that someone else is willing to keep working on it without needing much involvement from me.