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“I do a 15-20 minute video broadcast that I pay to have transcribed for them, provide all the content direction, find all the links and ask my community for input and feedback to be quoted…. aka all the research. Then I provide clarifying feedback for them to rework the content when it’s not hitting home and I’m still not jazzed by the outcome.”

This is what my colleague told me when she was talking about outsourcing her content. She is paying a pretty penny for someone to help her and take the task off her plate, yet feels like she’s still way to involved in the process.

“I know exactly what goals I’m wanting to achieve, have the budget to make it happen, but want everything to feel strategic and smart. And I want it to be a more hands off experience for me.”

Maybe you’ve had this experience, too. You hand off some or all of your content creation to a team member or a contractor, yet you find that you’re still super involved — too involved — with the whole process. And you start to get discouraged, because this was supposed to be less work for you, not more, but you haven’t really gotten any time back.

Why is it that outsourcing is sometimes so hard?

The difference between deciding and delegating

Two weeks ago, I had the exciting honor and pleasure to attend the first Run Like Clockwork event with Adrienne Dorison and Mike Michalowicz in Florida, and it was a wonderful exploration of how to design your business to run itself.

One of the most eye-opening sessions for me was when Adrienne talked about the difference between deciding and delegating.

Deciding is when you assign a task to someone else — but you are still responsible for making the final decisions.

Delegating is when you give someone a task — and they own it from start to finish.

Too often when we think we’re delegating, we’re really just assigning, and we’ll have to come back to deciding before long. That’s what happened with my friend — perhaps through no fault of her own. She wants to give up the whole process, but something is preventing it.

So what’s the difference, really? Why do some tasks we want to delegate, end up coming back to our to do list?

I have a few thoughts:

  1. You have to give the team member the autonomy.
  2. You have to give up the decision making process.
  3. You have to have the right team member.

In the first case, you might be the problem. Yeah, I said it. More often than not, we are the biggest bottleneck in our businesses. If you “check up” on a team member’s work all the time, change things without giving them the opportunity to fix the problem, or expect them to read your mind, you might be the problem. In the content example, this might look like editing the text yourself without telling the team member why you made the changes. (If you explain the changes you want, and they don’t deliver, that’s a different problem — see No. 3.)

In the second scenario, you might want them to own the process, but you haven’t actually given them the tools they need to make decisions. In a content example, this might mean that you tell the writer the topic for a single piece, but don’t give them the big picture strategy, so they can’t make educated decisions about what the lead magnet or call to action should be — and therefore that decision reverts back to you.

In the third situation, you might have hired someone who can’t accomplish what you need. It happens. I think that’s probably what’s happening with my colleague; I don’t know anything about the team member, so I can only speculate, but it seems like while they might be a fine writer, they’re not equipped to fully own the project the way she wants them to. You have to have the right person in the job when you’re hoping to delegate.

Making it easier to delegate content

As a team, we’re looking for ways to make delegating content creation easier and more effective. We’re looking at changing our internal structure so that a client will have just a single point of contact, even if there are multiple experts working on their project. We’re empowering our writers to be able to make suggestions to the client to make their lives easier — ie: “Would you like me to write an email to go with that?” — and give them the info they need to easily tell the client how much it will cost and how fast they can deliver it.

In other words, when I empower my team so that they own the whole process, it makes it easier for the client to delegate to us as well. Less back and forth, less bringing in (me) a middle man. Just empowering an expert creator to make the right decisions.

Even if you still approve the final product, it makes the whole process that much smoother.