Whether it’s appointing volunteers to manage association programs or directing staff members to execute tasks so you can focus on a larger vision, delegating work to others is a sign of good leadership. 

Delegating not only relieves your sense of pressure and work overload—it extends the boundaries of what you and your association can achieve.

But learning to delegate means overcoming three obstacles: pride, mistrust, and disorganization.

We feel pride when we’re high-achieving, and we want to be seen as self-sufficient. This is partly why many people find it difficult to ask others for help. But instead, think of delegating as an expression of confidence in others’ ability to do the job. Delegating is about giving members or staffers an opportunity, not a sign of your insufficiency. After all, membership organizations only function when members participate.

Trusting a volunteer or staff member with an important task can be a big leap of faith. If the very thought of delegating makes you uneasy, start with a single low-priority task. As you see the job can be completed successfully without you, you’ll gain confidence in the process and can move on to delegating another task, and another.

Often people don’t delegate because it takes a lot of effort to organize how members or staffers should help, and then more time to train and support them along the way. How many times have you said to yourself, “It’s easier and quicker if I just do it myself.” But this may not be the best use of your time. Although it’s counterintuitive to invest time coaching someone to perform a task you didn’t have time for in the first place, the investment pays off in the long run with more capable employees and volunteers. The next time a similar project comes along, you can delegate the task with a higher degree of confidence that it will be done well. 

How to Delegate to Staff

If you have staff and are delegating a new responsibility, make sure they are comfortable with the new role. Position the task as a sign of your confidence in their skills. Give them ownership of the project, ensuring they have the appropriate training to be successful. And don’t forget to update their job descriptions.

How to Delegate to Members

The REALTOR® volunteers at the National Association of REALTORS® are evidence that members are not only willing but exceptionally capable of taking on a wide range of association duties. From speaking to the press and legislators to planning and hosting events and developing new programs and initiatives, your members are up to the task.

Start by selecting key members who have the skills, time, and personality to accomplish the assignment you have for them. Clearly outline the desired outcome and give them the tools and resources they’ll need. Empower them to make decisions yet be available to guide them and answer questions. Be patient but establish a schedule for checking in with progress updates. Focus on what needs to be accomplished, rather than detailing how the work should be done. This builds trust. Finally, when the work is completed, give recognition where it’s deserved.

Since volunteers aren’t paid, find a reward that will motivate them to take on new responsibilities. Some volunteers perform well in tasks that include social and networking opportunities, while others want a task that will make a difference in the association or the community. All members want recognition and appreciation for their efforts.

What happens when the tasks you delegate fail? Remember, delegation is a shared task between you and your member. Did the volunteer have enough support, time, or feedback? If so, don’t be afraid of failure. For volunteers to truly own their tasks, they need to know failure is a possibility.

Delegation is a win-win when done appropriately. Members and staff have the opportunity to develop their skills and cultivate a sense of inclusion in the success of the organization. Meanwhile, you can focus your own efforts on the highest-priority tasks—all while expanding the amount and quality of services your association can deliver.

Best association tasks to delegate:

  • Tasks that recur, in a similar fashion, such as annual events and regular meetings, because there’s already an established framework or process.
  • Tasks that enable members to develop skills that will help them in their real estate career, such as public speaking, negotiations, and event planning. Have a member who holds outstanding open house events? Ask him or her to work on your next event.
  • Tasks where a failure wouldn’t impact other programs or products.
  • Tasks where members can work in teams, reducing the impact if one team member fails to perform.
  • Tasks where members are responsible for one part of a program managed by staff or the AE, such as securing an event location or finding speakers.
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