The 6 Do's and Don'ts of Delegating Tasks to an Assistant

Business associates collaborating on document

By Young Entrepreneur Council

When you delegate a task, you want the person taking it on to be responsive and proactive. If they can complete it well enough so that it almost feels like they're "reading your mind," even better. But it takes time to get to that level, and some work from you as well. Even the most seasoned direct report or assistant is going to need some instruction regarding how you want things done.

At Uassist.ME, we work with clients who are very busy and need assistants to help with scheduling, Internet research and other tasks. We've found that a successful relationship between someone who's delegating tasks and someone picking them up relies on trust and communication.

Here are some of our favorite do's and don'ts to help you get the most out of delegating tasks, either virtually or in-person.

Do take time to train.

It may seem counterintuitive to have to spend your time training someone on a task or getting them up to speed--after all, the reason you're delegating is because you want to offload that work. But whether you're hiring a virtual assistant or working with someone in your office, you'll need to invest some time into the relationship upfront so the assistant gets to know you, the job and your standards. This effort will quickly pay off.

Do cultivate patience.

The person you're delegating to likely wants to impress you, but keep in mind there may be a learning curve. Stay patient as you explain things, especially if your assistant is a virtual one. It's important to remember that you're not working with a machine or a robot -- there are inevitably going to be some bumps in the road. Once the assistant gets up to speed, you'll be able to trust them more and begin handing off more complex tasks.

Do set reasonable expectations.

Clear standards are vital when delegating, especially early on in the relationship. Set the bar high so your assistant knows what to aim for, and keep it consistent. Deadlines also help assistants plan their days more effectively. Remember that not every deadline can be "ASAP." That sets unrealistic standards and will only serve to stress your assistant out.

Don't make assumptions.

It's impossible to delegate well without continuous communication and feedback. Check in with assistants regularly to tell them how they're doing. One of the main rules for our assistants is to always reply to emails, even with a simple "will do." In return, we hope our clients do the same. I strongly suggest taking a couple of minutes out of your day to review the assistant's work, especially when they're new to a project or team and are just getting to know you and your business. Make sure you provide feedback when they've completing a task. A short "good job" is enough.

Don't put off updates.

Keep assistants informed as much as possible about changes in schedule, project scope, responsibilities and other issues as they come up. If you keep your VA in the dark while he or she is trying to manage your calendar, they're likely to schedule your meetings at the wrong time. Let your assistant know what's most important to you so they understand your priorities. And don't forget to provide cutoff dates or deadlines, since that will help them organize the delivery of their tasks.

Don't ignore your assistant.

Some people don't respond to their assistant's calls or emails, which really limits their usefulness. Once you've delegated a task, it's still your responsibility to answer questions and provide more information if your assistant needs it.

We encourage clients to communicate with their assistants using whatever medium works best for them. For example, one of our clients didn't use email very effectively, and he complained about having communication issues with his assistant. We suggested he try WhatsApp to contact her, and ever since he's used that medium to communicate frequently throughout the day, ultimately strengthening the relationship.

Knowing how to work with assistants, whether virtually or in person, can help you delegate more effectively. As a result, your entire team will be more productive and efficient.