July 31, 2014
As a business owner, one of the hardest—yet most beneficial skills to learn—is delegation. Many people who run businesses and have staff often find delegation of duties difficult for a number of reasons—two of the most common being a perceived lack of time (the “It’s faster to do it myself” excuse) or because they have a hard time letting go of their responsibilities and trusting that someone else can take care of them effectively. However, being able to delegate effectively is key for leaders. Only through delegation can they attend to higher-value responsibilities that will have a bigger impact on their company in the long run.
If you own a business, answer this question honestly: Do you spend most of your day performing tasks that will significantly and positively impact your company and support the vision you have for it? Or, is the better part of your day spent handling work that provides no real strategic value to your organization? Are you taking on tasks that are supposed to be completed by staff or third-party vendors? If so, you probably need a little help learning how to delegate. Consider these delegating tips:
1. Determine what to delegate. The first step in delegating is to choose what tasks can be delegated. Assigning critical, time-sensitive tasks may not be the best place to start. Instead, try selecting tasks that are ongoing, necessary processes that take up your time but are not high value. That being said, it is equally important not to delegate something you’re unwilling to do yourself, which may have negative consequences for your team’s morale.
2. Match the task with the team member. Making sure that you pick the right person to delegate a task to is paramount to delegating success. Taking time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your staff will help you make the right project assignments and will also bolster the confidence of those who are taking them on.
3. Clearly communicate expectations. Open, clear communication is another critical component of effective delegation. At the start of any project hand-off, be crystal clear about your expectations, including timelines and deliverables, and give your team members all of the information they need to achieve those goals. Putting the project parameters and your direction in writing helps to reduce frustration and ensures a positive end result.
4. Be available, but don’t hover. The point of delegating is defeated if you micro-manage the work that is being done. So, while it’s important to be available to your staff should questions about their assignments arise, you also need to allow them autonomy and flexibility to accomplish the work. Checking in from time to time, especially when a task is new, may be helpful to make sure everyone is on the right track.
5. Practice patience. Delegating will take work off your plate over time, but it will likely require additional time at the beginning to detail the task and your expectations and answer questions. And, you may have to learn from a bit of trial and error as you learn which members of your team can handle additional responsibilities and which tasks fit them best. Remember, mistakes will happen. Be sure to address any problems as they arise so they can be corrected quickly. Also, give encouragement and positive feedback when tasks are well done.
At first, letting go of your daily duties may be difficult, but, the more you delegate, the more comfortable you will become with the process. Keep in mind that by allowing others to step-up and help you, you will benefit everyone in your organization by focusing more time and energy on the things that will move your business forward.