Just as a ship captain can’t sail alone, no business owner can do everything. You may already delegate some portion of your work, but if you want to grow your company, it’s essential that you learn to delegate more often and more efficiently. By the time you’re feeling overloaded, it’s often too late to hand off duties. In many cases, a company owner who refuses to delegate is the cause of bottlenecks.
“If you don’t delegate, you run your ship aground, sink your ship, or collapse from the effort,” says consultant John Boggs of Fortitude Consulting, based in Phoenix.
Think about delegation during the hiring process and look for employees who will welcome additional responsibilities. Once you have the right employees and have decided which tasks you want to hand off, ask those staff to help document the scope of work and develop the processes, says Victoria Downing, president of Remodelers Advantage.
Many remodelers are entrepreneurs who started their companies specifically for the control that ownership affords. But you can learn to let go, Downing points out — or you’ll be stuck doing everything yourself.
Clearly define the task. “The more easily a task can be defined, the more it can be successfully delegated — especially in the beginning,” says Richard Steven, president of Fulcra Consulting. Easy-to-define tasks, such as bookkeeping, fall into this category. Consider starting with behind-the-scenes tasks, Steven says, so that learning-mistakes have low-risk consequences. Owners can also begin by delegating tasks that they don’t like to do (one of the perks of being the boss), or things they don’t do well.
Ensure that each employee wants to take on responsibility and that they are the right fit for that delegated task. “Think about the people on staff and who would enjoy and feel stretched by it,” Downing says. Boggs points out that this requires owners to have good observation skills so they know their employees well enough to make this decision.
Downing also recommends telling the employee the reasons why you chose her to champion a task — praise that should motivate her to take ownership.
Delegation can actually start with the hiring process. You want to create a team that is up to the delegation challenge. Downing looks for life-long “learners.” And Mike Gorman, principal of consulting firm TechKnowledge Systems, in Miami, advises clients to “hire for the job description” by including skills needed for future delegation in the detailed job description.
To create a team “predisposed to being able to delegate to,” Boggs recommends asking potential hires questions that align with the company culture and values. And, in preparation for delegating, one of Downing’s clients even hired an intern to shadow him and document his company’s processes and systems.
However, not all employees will welcome delegation. This can be acceptable if there is a place for them in your business, but if not, you may have to explain to them that they are “limiting their opportunities within the company,” Downing says.