Dear Elon Musk, Richard Branson Has Some Advice For You

It's fundamental, but unexpected.

Courtesy of Pool / Getty Images
Courtesy of Pool / Getty Images

By Melanie Curtin

Arguably two of the most successful people in the world, Richard Branson and Elon Musk,have a combined net worth of $25 billion.

But neither is only about dollar bills. They’re both committed to paths of a higher order, and their strong values are part of what make them role models. 

It’s worth noting, then, what Branson’s advice to Elon Musk was, when asked by CNBC’s Nancy Hungerford. In light of the recent controversy around Tesla and SpaceX, Hungerford wanted to know what Branson’s opinion was of Musk’s challenges. Here’s part of what Branson said:

“[Elon]’s got to find time for himself; he’s got to find time for his health and for his family. He’s a wonderfully creative person, but he shouldn’t be getting very little sleep. He should find a fantastic team of people around him.”

Branson’s suggestion for how to get there? It can be summed up in one word:


Branson put it a little more diplomatically, but not a lot: “I think he maybe needs to learn the art of delegation.”

The fact is, a lot of us resist delegating. Either we don’t want to give up control; we don’t believe someone else can do it as well as we can; or we don’t think we can afford it.

But there are many (including Branson) who would argue that in fact, you can’t afford not to. The cost of trying to do everything yourself is more than just burnout: it can end up destroying your relationships and even your business.

For example, career and business strategist Jenny Blake says delegating actually saved her business. In her piece on Harvard Business Review, she said it also facilitated her tripling her income.

Read that again: she tripled her income because she learned to delegate.

“Tasks that are relatively simple probably are not the best use of your time,” Blake said. “Very straightforward tasks can (and should) be handled by anyone but you.”

She suggests using a method of six T’s to determine which tasks to offload. They are:

  1. Tiny: Any tasks that are small but add up should be outsourced. For example, registering for a conference, booking the flight, and booking a hotel that’s close to the venue — they’re all tiny tasks, but together they add up.
  2. Tedious: Tasks that are simple, boring, and straightforward (i.e. updating the KPIs in your pitch deck).
  3. Time-consuming: Research, for example. If you need a new tax person, you need to make the final decision, but you don’t need to do the first 80 percent of the task, which is looking up reputable people in your price range.
  4. Teachable: Tasks that seem complex at first, but can be systematized and passed on (you can still have final approval). For example, teaching your employee how to draft the deck for the monthly meeting, and what to include.
  5. Terrible at: When you’re awful at something, it takes you longer to do it than a pro, plus you feel drained after doing it, which is bad for your business. Hire a professional designer for your TEDx deck, for example–don’t do it yourself.
  6. Time-sensitive: You need to recover the iPad you left on the airplane, which means sitting on hold, but you have a meeting. Get someone else to sit on hold for an hour.

According to Blake, the best way to determine what to delegate is to look at what’s on your plate and then ask the following questions: “What can you and only you do? How can you delegate the rest?” 

Not if you should delegate the rest, but how to delegate the rest.

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