Appraisal News and Business Tips

Increase Productivity by Delegating

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Increase Productivity by Delegating

Want more time management ideas and tips? To order our newsletter, Time management Reprint Series or audiotape, go to the Information Products page. This article was previously published in Appraisal Today and was written by Ann O’Rourke. It is copyrighted. For reprint permission, Contact Us.

All appraisal company owners say delegating is a good idea, but most of us don’t do it often enough, and few of us do it well. Delegating is particularly important when your appraisal workload is high. Every hour a principal or associate spends on work that could be done by support staff is an hour of reduced income. That’s not even counting the complaints from clients about turn-around time!

Reasons For Non-delegation
The primary reason for inadequate delegating is “I can do it better myself”. Other main reasons are: “I don’t have time to explain it”, “I don’t have anyone to delegate to”, and “My staff can’t do it right and would mess it up.”

Business owners with professional and technical backgrounds, including appraisers, typically have more difficulty delegating than people with a non-technical management background, whose job requires substantial delegation. Fortunately, delegation is a skill that can be learned.

Rate Yourself As A Delegator

  1. Do you work longer hours than most of the appraisers in your shop?
  2. Are you frequently interrupted with questions?
  3. Do you spend time doing routine details that could be handled by your support staff?
  4. When you’re off for a couple of days, is your desk piled high with messages and paperwork when you return?
  5. Do you have difficulty meeting appraisal deadlines?
  6. Are you still handling the same activities and problems that you did when you first started your business, or when your business was much smaller?
  7. Do you spend large amounts of time reviewing the appraisals of experienced associates?
  8. Do you like to keep a finger in every pie?

If you’ve answered yes to none or 1 of these questions, you’re doing a good job as a delegator. If you’ve answered yes to two or three, you need improvement. Four or more yes answers indicates you need to start working on your delegating as soon as possible.

Perfectionism, or “I can do it better myself”

When you delegate, you have to accept the fact that the person you assign the task might not do the task exactly the same way you would have. But the choice is not really between getting the work done your way or your staff’s way. It’s between spending your time on a task that could be delegated, or doing a more profitable task, such as completing an appraisal report.

If you have great difficulty delegating anything, or have difficulty with certain tasks, start by forcing yourself to delegate several times, or for a period of time. If you can’t seem to keep your hand off a ringing phone, even when you’re really busy and don’t have time to talk, try forcing yourself to let one of your staff, or your answering machine, pick it up, for 1 or 2 hours each day. Yes, it will be painful. You’ll be convinced you missed getting a very profitable new assignment.

If you can’t trust anyone else to prepare your appraisal exhibits, force yourself to train a support staffer to do it, and let them do it. It usually doesn’t take much training time. The time trailing will pay off. Try to avoid excessive checking of their work. Do an occasional check, after they’ve been trained. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised to discover they do it as well as you could, and maybe even better!

If you spend substantial amounts of time reviewing your associate appraiser’s work, try having your most experienced associate do a few reviews. Be sure to compensate him or her, of course, if the reviews are time consuming. Many shops have most of the review work done by appraisers reviewing each other’s work. Support staff should also do reviews, particularly for clerical errors such as wrong addresses, missing signatures, etc. Support staff are also very valuable for “readability” reviews. If they can’t understand it, it needs to be re-written as it is probably garbled or has missing information. You, as the principal, could do final reviews, if necessary for co-signature.

Managing Your Staff’s Time
Are you causing problems for your staff’s time management? Some of the main faults of principal/owners are: changing priorities in mid-stream, poor communication, and interruptions. This applies to both appraisal and support staff.

Communication problems are: failing to inform about deadlines or what exactly is expected, not being available to answer questions, and not keeping all the staff members informed about relevant facts, such as a new copier being installed next week, who’s on vacation, or training sessions for a new computer program.

For your appraisers, a typical problem is the principal being too busy to answer questions about an appraisal, causing the associate to delay completing it, or do it incorrectly. For support staff, often the principal gives hurried, brief instructions, and is not available for questions later.

Many shops have solved communication problems by weekly staff meetings, having principals set aside certain times of the day for staff questions, posting notices on bulletin boards or distributing a brief memo.

Changing priorities is a significant problem for many support staff personnel. For example, a secretary is in the middle of putting together an appraisal report, and is told by the principal to start working on another report. As a result of the changes in priorities, the first report takes longer than it should have.

If you’re lucky enough to have had a secretary train you, you’ll know that you need to start your support staff’s day with a prioritized list of what they need to accomplish that day. Or, you can let the support staff do the list. Don’t change the priorities except for very occasional emergencies. You’ll also need to provide a prioritized list of tasks that don’t have to be done right now, but need to be completed at some future date.

When you were an employee, and your boss walked up and started talking, what did you do? If you wanted to stay happily employed, you stopped what you were doing to talk with her or him. Your staff probably acts the same towards you. Every time you interrupt them, they lose time. Don’t interrupt unless it’s really necessary.

Encourage your staff to “manage the boss”, and let you know when deadlines are unrealistic, you keep changing priorities, or interrupt them. Encourage them to question and seek agreement on priorities and respect your “closed door” times. Respect their time and they will respect yours.

Delegating Up
When your staff gets you to do their work they are delegating up. Usually, they are afraid to take risks, lack confidence, are afraid of criticism, or lack resources. Or, the boss doesn’t like to say no, or wants to “be needed”. For example, an associate says he’d rather not take a certain assignment because it’s too difficult, or a secretary is unable to find data, such as a flood map reference. So you do the appraisal or look up the flood map data.

Delegating up is a common problem in all types of businesses. It can be reduced or eliminated. Don’t accept a question or problem: make the questioner come to you with an answer or suggestion to solve the problem. If an appraiser needs technical assistance or training, provide it. If a support person needs additional resources, such as updated flood information, provide it. If they’re afraid of criticism, praise them when they do the task well.

What If You Don’t Have Anyone To Delegate To?
If your support staff is totally swamped, it’s time to think about hiring a new employee. Fortunately, hiring support staff is much easier than hiring appraisers! That’s why you want to maximize your appraisers’ productive time by providing good support.

Unfortunately, it does take some time to train clerical support staff. Few appraisal firms have been able to fully utilize temporary employees due to the unique clerical tasks in an appraisal office, such as answering questions on the status of appraisals, getting subject property data, using appraisal software, assembling and packing reports, keeping up on client requirements, etc.

Many appraisal firms that are very busy and don’t have time to train anyone are making use of entry level support personnel, usually part time high school, college students, or retired seniors. They can do pick up and deliveries, filing, and retake blurred or missing photos. They can do many computer tasks, such as archiving, data entry for appraisal tracking, or accounts receivable. With limited training, they can assist with report packaging.

All the tasks that can be delegated to entry level support staff can free up your more experienced staff to assist the firm’s appraisers in increasing their productivity, and your profits. Entry level salaries reduce overhead.

If your support staff is totally swamped, it’s time to think about hiring a new employee. Fortunately, hiring support staff is much easier than hiring appraisers! That’s why you want to maximize your appraisers’ productive time by providing good support.

Unfortunately, it does take some time to train clerical support staff. Few appraisal firms have been able to fully utilize temporary employees due to the unique clerical tasks in an appraisal office, such as answering questions on the status of appraisals, getting subject property data, using appraisal software, assembling and packing reports, keeping up on client requirements, etc.

Many appraisal firms that are very busy and don’t have time to train anyone are making use of entry level support personnel, usually part time high school, college students, or retired seniors. They can do pick up and deliveries, filing, and retake blurred or missing photos. They can do many computer tasks, such as archiving, data entry for appraisal tracking, or accounts receivable. With limited training, they can assist with report packaging.

All the tasks that can be delegated to entry level support staff can free up your more experienced staff to assist the firm’s appraisers in increasing their productivity, and your profits. Entry level salaries reduce overhead.

Of course, if you’re really busy, what you also need is more appraisers. See  To hire or not to hire – that is the question.