Perhaps you’ve heard of Type A and Type B personality theory. It concerns how people respond to stress. According to Dr. Saul McLeod, Type A personality is characterized by a constant feeling of working against the clock and a strong sense of competitiveness. Those with Type A personalities generally experience higher stress levels, hate failure and find it difficult to stop working, even when they’ve achieved their goals. Sound like someone you know? Possibly even yourself?

Thanks to the pandemic (and life in general), more and more people are becoming familiar with (and succumbing to) burnout. There’s a simple way to take some of the weight off your shoulders, even though it may sound difficult to the Type A folks among us. It’s delegation.

“Delegating Responsibilities Effectively” was a very well-attended session during the 2022 NAFDMA Conference, and it was led by three growers who all needed to share their loads.

Olivia Telschow, owner of Helene’s Hilltop Orchard in Merilll, WI, absolutely had to start dividing roles. She took over from her parents in 2007, resulting in “a big mess and cloudiness in my head,” she said. “I never took a day off – I knew something had to change.” Telschow said she learned delegation is key. She now has department leads: a bakery production lead; an operational lead; a beverage lead; a retail/online sales lead; a custodial lead; and a project lead – and they all handle their own teams.

Stony Hill Farms in Chester, NJ, a garden center/flower shop, was run by Carol and Dale Davis, a husband and wife duo, until their kids became involved. They leased a farm market across town to expand, and the two locations meant they needed to delegate. Dale and Carol are the owner/operators, and they have five key managers (three of whom are their children). They all have managers that work under them, as well as other subordinate positions.

Jeff Probst heads up Blooms and Berries Farm Market in Loveland, Ohio, which features a garden center, U-pick berries, fresh produce, a corn maze and more. “We try to be diversified but not fragmented,” he explained. However, when he looked at his days and saw what he did and did not get done, he realized what he needed to delegate. Duties are now split among leads and managers. And at Blooms and Berries, tenure does not equal leadership – it’s about finding the best person for the job.

Why Invest in Delegation?

“If you’re going to delegate, what should your role be?” Probst posed. “Can you afford to delegate? If you do it right, that employee more than pays for themselves. It allows you to be fresher but not walk away.” The idea, he said, is “If you take care of today, I’ll take care of tomorrow.”

The presenters came up with a list of good reasons for delegation for both employees and executives. For employees: It builds responsibilities and creates opportunities for accountability; it creates a culture where they feel invested in the organization; it allows staff to feel value and pride in their work; and it evens the workload across the team. For executives, delegation allows them to prioritize the tasks only they can do; it creates a chance to learn new things (including the fact that some of your staff know more than you); and it allows them to leverage the strengths and talents of the staff.

For example, Dale Davis noted that his daughter, who speaks fluent Spanish, now runs his operation’s H-2A program, and that took that massive workload away from him.

“You probably have people with more talent than you know,” Probst added. “Observation is our number one thing … Invest in your team. And know that money is not the only reward.”

What Can Be Delegated?

The short answer to this question is tasks and outcomes. “Tasks are ‘how,’ outcomes are ‘why,’” said Telschow. “It’s all about the result, not the activity.” She said that when she bought her business, they had no procedures and no handbook. “The tasks were where I started to develop systems and free up time for me to do the things I needed to do.”

Tasks are activities that have specific outcomes. They may use a checklist. They may be measurable and short-term. Tasks could include inventory or custodial duties or administrative or production work.

Outcomes are what come from successfully completed tasks. This could be seen in a good marketing strategy, popular social media posts, retail sales goals being met and solid project management.

What Should Be Delegated?

The trio listed five kinds of tasks that should be delegated to make your life easier:

  • Tiny Tasks – easy to delegate, and anyone can do these with very little training
  • Tedious Tasks – activities that drain your energy and distract you
  • Tasks You’re Terrible At – activities that should be given to someone who has the appropriate time, skill and understanding to accomplish them for you
  • Time-Consuming Tasks – things that take up large parts of your day (even if you enjoy them) that someone else could do
  • Time-Sensitive Tasks – things that have deadlines but are prioritized lower than other activities that require your attention

“I still think I’m the only one who can water in the greenhouse,” Davis joked. “It’s almost impossible to teach someone how to do it, but it’s something I need to delegate.”

And if the idea of delegating anything riles your Type A anxiety, Probst suggested, “Choose one task, put it in a bag and give it away.” Even one less thing on your plate may help.

Guidance in Practicing Delegation

Much like the tasks, there is an alliterative list of things owners and managers can do when practicing delegation. They are Trust, Training, Technique, Time and Turnover and Transition.

“If you’re struggling with trust, that is a function of competency and character,” Probst stated. “If it’s competency, you can train that skill. Remember, the conductor is the most important person in an orchestra and they don’t make a sound.”

While putting time, trust and training into an employee is a process, inevitably, some people will change jobs. Turnover is a good time to re-evaluate roles and positions. Have a plan in place for staff changes.

Olivia Telschow and Dale Davis took time after the presentation to answer a lot of one-on-one questions about successful delegation of duties. Photo by Courtney Llewellyn

The Challenges of Delegating

All three presenters have things they simply can’t give up. For Telschow, it’s handling financial records. Probst refuses to stop attending produce auctions and giving up very long-term projects. “I refuse to give up watering and ice cream making (because it’s so new and because I enjoy it),” Davis said. And that’s okay!

Delegating won’t necessarily be an easy process for anyone. One challenge could be that trust hasn’t been adequately established. When humans work with other humans, there will likely be communication challenges too.

There’s also the concern about assigning duties to the “right” or “wrong” person. If something goes awry, you have to ask if they’re truly the wrong person or if they didn’t have the right type of training or time. Did they need more guidance and mentoring to get it right?

Another challenge is embracing outsourcing. Requesting outside entities – with the appropriate expertise – to handle your financials or your marketing is not taboo. (One outsourcing option noted by attendees was, which creates work operating systems for any business.)

As you begin planning for 2023, consider delegating more tasks to the workers you trust. Even if it’s just one task.

by Courtney Llewellyn