A 4-Step Process to Delegating Accounting Work

Gusto Editors

Do you effectively delegate tasks at your firm? 

The idea of setting aside control and letting others take care of tasks can be a daunting one. Often, the difficulty of prioritizing tasks and giving them to others becomes enough to avoid delegating work. However, the refusal to delegate appropriately will result in added stress, overwork, and eventual burnout. 

That’s why we at Gusto have partnered with CPA Academy to provide effective delegation strategies for your firm. Our webinar, “How to Delegate Like a Boss,” covered the issues surrounding delegation under the guidance of Kristen Rampe. 

Kristen is the founder and principal of Rampe Consulting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She offers guidance to accountants through individual coaching, workshops, and retreats to improve their firms nationwide. 

If you struggle with delegation or want to learn how to be a more effective delegator, keep reading. We will cover the best ways to delegate tasks, the benefits of delegation, and how to delegate work to employees. 

Steps for effective delegation

Without clear guidelines on how you want the process to be handled, you can set your team up for failure. Consequently, the quality of work produced by your team will be lacking. 

To prevent this from happening, plan for the way you want to hand off work. Focusing on particular aspects of how you give work to your employees provides a solid foundation for the rest of the delegation process. With an effective plan, you set your team up for success: 

“When we think about the handoff, there are four parts that go into successfully handing off work to someone else. Those are the deadline, the duration, the details, and the priority.”

– Kristen Rampe

A properly planned transfer of tasks to your employees will make it easier to monitor and review the work later. Utilizing the four parts of handing off work gives you a framework to assemble your delegation process. When you are capable of effectively delegating tasks at work, your firm will grow stronger. 

Set an appropriate deadline

The first thing to consider before giving work to your team is the deadline. Many times, it’s easier to hand someone work and ask them to have it done as soon as possible. If that is your strategy, be careful because it leads down a slippery slope. Without a proper deadline, your team will not know how to structure the pace of their work:

“I would challenge you to reflect on your delegation so far and ask yourself, ‘What are the times when I give someone something to do when I don’t give them a deadline?’”

– Kristen Rampe

Planning deadlines is critical to the success of your delegation. Deadlines not only give you the ability to monitor work as a supervisor, but they also give your team the ability to structure their workload. When you plan for the future of a project, everybody stays on the same page:

“Having clarity and agreeing upfront and communicating a deadline can help delegation be successful. If a person goes past that deadline, the conversation [about why they didn’t meet the deadline] is a whole lot easier. On the flip side, if you don’t give them a deadline [it becomes a frustrating process]. … A proponent of deadlines doesn’t mean there’s no flexibility. It just means there’s communication.”

– Kristen Rampe
Male accountant working at his desk.

When setting deadlines, build in a cushion of when the task needs finishing. That way, it’s not a big deal if someone needs to change their priorities. If something comes up and they need extra time, you can move the deadline to a more suitable time: 

“It’s really helpful when you set a deadline to build in time for you to review the task and give it back to them if needed. You want to be able to have your deadline well ahead of your actual deadline. Think about who they are and what their experience is when you set a deadline. That way, you’ve got a nice space for you to properly manage the work they’re doing.”

– Kristen Rampe

Assigning deadlines with the proper amount of built-in flexibility will allow you to delegate better. Your team will benefit from having better planning ability, and you will build an accountability system for your tasks. As you set deadlines, consider the duration of a project.

Assess the project’s duration

The duration of a future project goes hand in hand with the project’s deadline. As you plan to delegate tasks at work, keep in mind the amount of time the project needs: 

“How long do you expect your team to work on projects? A range can be really helpful. … Range helps the other person know, ‘Okay, this is about how long this project should take.’ [As a result], it lets them know when they start to go off track.”

– Kristen Rampe

When your employees have a time frame laid out for them, they can gauge how well the project is going. A clear time range lets them know whether they are performing as expected or need assistance. Having a schedule built into a project also reinforces communication within your team: 

“If you think something should take them two days, you don’t want them to come to you at 4:00 P.M. on the second day and say, ‘Gosh, I’m only about ten percent of the way done.’ You want to let them know, ‘Hey if you’ve done a full day’s worth of work and you’re only at this step, talk to me.’ So you can [provide instruction] upfront.”

– Kristen Rampe

Creating a clear path to success by setting an appropriate time frame for your team will strengthen the effectiveness of your delegation. This step builds accountability and communication into your delegation strategy. As a result, your employees will be able to stay on track when working on a project. 

Female accounting manager having a conversation about deadlines with a female accountant.

Evaluate the project’s details

During the handoff process of delegation, make sure you evaluate the details your team needs to complete the project successfully. Many of the tasks you plan on delegating may come as second nature to you, so be sure to keep that in mind. Someone new to the project will need more information than someone who has done it before:

“What information does your team need to complete the project as best they can? The information that the person you’re delegating to might need to be different than what you were providing, not because you’re trying to withhold information, but because you probably know a lot more in your head than they do. It’s easy to forget what people need who are new to a particular project.”

– Kristen Rampe

Taking a step back and focusing on the ultimate purpose of the work is necessary for effective delegation. When your team has a complete understanding of the task’s purpose, your employees gain a better chance at success: 

“What is the ultimate purpose of the work? [Knowing the ultimate purpose] makes someone a better worker, a better accountant overall, and gives them a better understanding of what they’re doing.”

– Kristen Rampe

Providing ample information and revealing the project’s purpose gives your team the ability to understand the tasks you hand to them. Having a knowledgeable team will help guarantee a successful transfer of tasks. 

Determine the project’s priority

The final step in creating a successful handoff of projects to your team is prioritizing. Often, tasks can stack up around your staff without them knowing what to prioritize, which creates a stressful situation. When you delegate tasks, be sure to open a line of communication that allows them to be open about all of their assigned projects and what needs to take priority:

“Sharing the things [that] should take priority with the person you’re delegating to [is essential]. Have clear, honest conversations about what should take priority.”

– Kristen Rampe

Many times, employees have multiple people assigning them projects. The pressure from the multiple tasks makes it hard for them to decide what to work on first. When you take the time to have transparent conversations about priority, you empower employees with the ability to inform you about conflicting assignments: 

“Having conversations with your team so they know how to have conversations about priority and who they should talk with is really important. Give them that information as you hand off the work to them.”

– Kristen Rampe

Giving your team the information they need to prioritize tasks empowers them to be successful on their projects. As a result, they gain autonomy by controlling what they need to complete and when they need to finish it. When your employees can couple priority with the other aspects of a successful handoff, they will build the trust needed for effective delegation. 

Learn more about how to delegate work to employees

Handing off work to your employees may be difficult, but the benefits are worth it. A successful handoff gives your staff the potential to feel more empowered, knowledgeable, and trusting of your leadership. As a result, you open up the possibility to create a positive environment within your firm. 

If you want to learn more about delegating tasks to your employees, check out the entire webinar here. Also, if you want to learn more about how to delegate effectively and the benefits of delegation, be sure to check out Part One and Part Three of this webinar article series. 

Here at Gusto, we partner with firms to provide solutions for making your firm reach its full potential. Be sure to look into our People Advisory Program to learn how you can train your team to reach its potential. We also provide a partner blog full of resources for all your advising needs. Visit our Gusto for Accountants page for more information on utilizing people-based accounting within your firm.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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