Delegation – The Key to Sustaining Success
Let’s face it. When you are growing a business, there are always more things that need to get done than there is time to do them. To keep your business growing, you have to find ways to get more done without working yourself to death.
Simply put, if you cannot delegate, you cannot grow. When your company gets too big for one person to run it all, you will stall out and stop growing. You can avoid this trap by becoming an effective delegator and beginning to build a real management team that can help you sustain your early successes.
h3. Why Can’t Entrepreneurs Delegate?
Don’t kid yourself. Just because you are delegating out some tasks right now doesn’t mean you are good at delegation. You’ve probably delegated the simple, repetitive, low risk tasks. To really make delegation work, you have to be able to delegate some of the truly important work that you do.
What’s so hard about delegation? Why does it seem especially difficult for entrepreneurs? To be an effective delegator, you need to understand the roadblocks in your way. Here are a few things that might be holding you back:
Delegation is a risk. What if you allowed your VP of Operations to make important decisions and she made the wrong one? How much might it cost? Whatever the short term cost of that bad decision might be, I promise you that it will cost you much more in the long run if you do not delegate important work.
If you insist on having the final say over every important decision, you will never develop an effective management team and never realize the full potential of your business. Done properly, effective delegation will greatly reduce the possibility of the “big mistake.” By insuring good management practices, you will find that your company will be easier to run and more profitable.
You just don’t have the time. It’s easier and quicker for you to do it rather than taking the time to train someone else to do it. Yeah, that’s right, you can do it in 15 minutes but it will take two hours to train someone else to do it.
That works for a one-time task, but for repetitive tasks, you’re just kidding yourself if you think this is an effective use of your time. If this is the way you work, you’re trapped on a treadmill going nowhere. To grow your business, you have to stop doing and start managing. But because most entrepreneurs are so good at doing (and not very good at managing), it’s easy just to keep on doing. What your company really needs is a leader who can manage.
No one else can do it as well as you can. True, true, true. At least it always seems that way. But so what? What if it took twice as long for someone else to do the task and they did it only 90% as well as you could do it? You and your company would probably be way ahead.
Getting tasks that can be done by someone else off your plate means you can spend your time doing things that no one else can do. It means you can be adding real value, managing your company and moving it toward its goals.
h3. Five Steps to Effective Delegation
Delegation, like most things in business, is not rocket science. But just because the process is simple, doesn’t mean execution is easy. For most entrepreneurs, delegating is something that does not come naturally. So here are five steps you can take to get delegation rolling.
1. Set goals. Commit to becoming better at delegation, then set goals for yourself. The way you spend your time probably follows the 80 – 20 rule. Twenty percent of the tasks you do add 80% of the total value you bring to your company. The other 80% of your time adds only a small amount of additional value. The only problem is figuring out which task falls into which category.
Take ten minutes to make a list of all the tasks you now do each week. Pick out the one task that makes the biggest contribution to moving your company toward its goals. Give this task the number one. Then pick out the second most important task and assign it number two. Continue through the list numbering all the tasks. Now split the list in half by ranking. The bottom half of your list becomes your Delegation List of tasks you will begin to offload.
Establish a timeline for yourself. Set a date when you will delegate your first task. Establish a completion date for delegating out all the tasks on your list, then establish benchmarks along the way.
2. Take an inventory of your people. Find your rising stars, then give them something to sink their teeth in. Review each of the people in your organization in your mind and decide who is ready to take on more responsibility. Determine what skills each of them has and how those skills match up with your Delegation List. Do not forget that if these people are already fully engaged, they won’t be able to take on additional responsibilities without doing some delegation of their own.
Then select the lowest risk, easiest to learn tasks and begin the delegation process.
3. Communicate clearly. Be certain that you clearly detail the outcomes you expect. Be less clear about how those outcomes should be achieved. This way your people will be able to work towards the same objective you are aiming for while using their creativity to perhaps find a better way to achieve that goal.
For delegation to work, the person you are delegating a task to must understand: 1.) precisely what work is to be done; 2.) how the work helps move the company toward its goals (why it is important); 3.) how you will know when the task is being done well (how you measure success); and 4.) how you are currently doing the task.
Now set a meeting with the person you will be delegating to. At that meeting, discuss each of these points and ask them to take notes. Talk about what resources might be needed, what additional authority they might need, what (if any) training is required, what concerns or questions they might have. Ask the employee to write up the notes and to carefully define the issues listed above. Ask them to prepare a proposal detailing how they will perform the tasks and achieve the stated goals. Before concluding the meeting, set a time for a followup meeting.
At the second meeting, discuss the employee’s ideas, make any revisions required and finalize the plan. Be certain that a timeline is associated with each step of the plan.
4. Establish a followup schedule. For most entrepreneurs, this is the hardest part. Sticking to a routine, achieving long term follow through is just not a strong suit for most people who start businesses. But it is a must if delegation is to succeed. I suggest you start out by meeting weekly with the people you are delegating to. Once they are well on their way to assimilating their new tasks, you can meet less frequently.
Establish regular written reporting. Require each employee who has taken on a new task give you a written, weekly report detailing just what they have accomplished and what hasn’t worked as anticipated. Then communicate, communicate, communicate.
5. Don’t be a yo-yo. Once you have delegated a task, let it stay delegated. You can destroy a person’s confidence by trusting them with a task, then yanking it back from them when it’s not going the way you expect it to go. You also destroy the person’s initiative. Additionally, you demonstrate to all the people that report to that individual that the boss does not have confidence in them.
Let people know its okay to fail. Let them know that you realize there can be no progress without risk taking. Let them know you are available to help and that you will do everything you can to make them successful. And don’t forget that regular followup and communications will avoid unpleasant surprises for you and your employees.
h3. Do it NOW!
If you are convinced that better delegation is important to you and your company, take ten minutes right now and develop your task list. Then add a task to your To Do List to complete each of the five steps above. Then let us hear about how your are doing!
Copyright 2008 Russ Holdstein