As a business owner, can you successfully delegate to others without feeling a sense of fear or hesitation? Since you’ve likely put in huge amounts of blood, sweat & tears into creating the business you have today, chances are this feeling resonates. Many business leaders find it difficult to allow successful delegation to flourish, thereby optimising their newfound time with added productivity.
You’ve worked many long days, and sacrificed family time and other pleasures just to keep the business afloat. Maybe you’ve had some good fortune, and started to develop a robust business that is evolving towards the successful enterprise that you dreamed of before you started on the journey. In essence, the success of your business is due in large measure to your commitment and dogged determination. Delegating begins to look like a scary proposition when you feel like you’ve got the wheels turning just the way you want them to.
At What Stage Do You Consider Delegating?
There comes a point in time for all growing businesses where the founder needs to build a team around them. It’s not the size of the team that is usually the most daunting prospect. More often than not it’s your concern over the loss of control by having others responsible for the tasks you have always done.
This is the main obstacle preventing continued progress. After all, the business has been your baby from its first inkling as an idea through to the present day. You’ve fed and nurtured it. You’ve cared for it and now it’s a part of your life. You are the one who has lived and breathed its every moment.
The ability to hand over key tasks or projects, without significantly impacting the delivery of results, is critical to any individual’s career development. And yet, time and time again, research shows that managers are resistant to delegating for a variety of reasons. This includes a lack of confidence in their skills which they fear may be jeopardised if another person takes over. There is potential for the tasks and ultimate delivery to be better than they have done!
Delegating tasks can be difficult for many people, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can be a rewarding experience.
When Successful Delegation Needs to Become a Reality
You’re maxed out but the business still demands more. Opportunities, client demands, and delivery all remain critical, but you can’t do it all. Success breeds success and you may be getting more enquiries. Alternatively, you may believe times are hard and you need to be chasing opportunities. Trying to find more work whilst keeping all the other plates spinning.
But to grow and progress to achieve those inspirational goals you had when you started the journey you need to share some of your load with others.
Everything so far is likely just to be a means to a greater end. If you don’t take the next step, you will be ensuring that those dreams remain out of reach.
So how do you delegate effectively and maintain a good level of oversight? How do you avoid being so hands-on that you might as well have done the task yourself?
How to Let It Go
I didn’t know it at the time for many years, but I wasn’t as good at delegation as I thought I was! I’d just issue a vague instruction and then wonder why the outcome didn’t play out as I had hoped. It took some time.
Fluctuating between too tightly monitoring progress or being so hands-on I was almost abdicating all responsibility. Not to mention blaming others for their failure to deliver before I started to master this key delegation technique.
I turned the corner more by luck than judgement when something prompted me to consider applying the Plan, Do, Check Act (PDCA) Model. A tool to successfully improve my delegation.
In the 1950s, management consultant Dr William Edwards Deming developed a method of identifying why some products or processes don’t work as hoped. The PDCA Cycle is a systematic process for gaining valuable learning and knowledge for the continual improvement of a product, process, or service. It fitted my needs perfectly. Because my delegation process clearly wasn’t working!
By applying the PDCA model, the effectiveness of my delegation and the results others are achieving have dramatically improved. In addition, my capacity to get on with strategic tasks others can’t perform for me has significantly allowed me to optimise future business growth.
Applying the Model
What am I going to delegate? There are tasks that I am not yet willing to delegate to my team, so they are off the table and stay with me. There are likely to be many day-to-day activities that don’t require your oversight. These would be a great place to start.
Who is best suited to the task? Do they have the skills and experience? Or is this a “development opportunity”? If there isn’t a fit here, then there is likely to be some development or training needed first.
How will I define the desired outcome? What exactly is the expected result here? I need to prepare myself to delegate the task and the expected outcome so that my colleague has clarity. It also needs to address how the two of us will communicate so that the person I’m delegating to feels free to ask questions and provide progress updates.
How much time and authority should I allow? It’s valuable to recognise that the person I’m delegating to will likely not be as quick at this as I am. So I need to allow them sufficient time. That means I need to think about setting the task up earlier rather than later. If I’m rushing, there is a risk it won’t end well!
I start by properly briefly my colleague on all the points above and ask them to provide feedback. Their responses give me confidence that they understand the tasks and are on board with the requirements and deadline. It also offers an early warning that now might not be the right time to delegate this task.
In the early days, I often had to remind myself that although I could deliver the task more quickly, there was a significant long-term benefit for myself and the company. My investment in time to set somebody up to succeed should enable them to successfully repeat this task as necessary. It frees up my time which is where the ultimate benefit lies.
Stay in touch and help keep the delegated task on track. Stick to the updates and communications arrangement agreed upon when setting up the task. Avoid the temptation and desire to micromanage.
You may find it useful to ask about obstacles and barriers you can help clear. Yes, this is likely to be challenging. But it can usually be offset by the time allowed generated that the situation could reduce if needed, although this is plan B.
The action you may need to take is a function of the progress that the individual you have delegated to makes. If all is on track and the desired outcome is achieved, then it’s all about praise and recognition for a job well done.
If the checking identifies issues needing attention, you may need to become involved. Rather than taking the task back, think about how you can help them get back on track.
Final Thoughts on Successful Delegation – Like a Pro
Whatever the outcome, it will always be worth having a short review and being clear on any improvement that could be implemented next time.
Remember, if you want to grow your business, you have to shed some of your tasks to others. Then you can prioritise those things nobody else can do for you. Often it’s not the act of delegating that causes people to feel guilty. It’s what they leave behind.
For delegation to work successfully you need to give up control over a project. Let them do the job without micromanaging and you’ll be surprised at how quickly it gets done.
Paul Haxell is a Tricres Partner with plenty of additional wisdom to share!
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