What is holding back the growth of your company? A surprising answer may be a lack of delegation. Yes, even Superman had limitations. You, along with your team, only have so many hours in the day.
If the entrepreneur doesn’t learn to delegate tasks, the growth stops as soon as her plate is full. When the entrepreneur alone holds the reins, it limits the company’s growth. Effective delegation enables individual and company growth. Delegation allows business owners to focus on the most important goals of the company.
Properly delegating tasks will become more important as the face of the workforce changes. Many Millennials expect a different, more directed experience at work. This differs from workstyles of Boomers and generations in-between. Just as business technology has evolved over time, so have delegation and management styles.
Is a Lack of Delegating Tasks Holding Your Company Back?
As suggested in the book, Don’t Do. Delegate!, it may be time for a hard look at your management style. Answer these questions below from a point of real honesty to see if poor delegation, as it relates to the time available, is holding you and your company back.
Some of your answers might also point to broader issues than delegation, including project management, strategic planning, leadership and process. More than three “yes” answers could indicate there’s trouble with your delegation process.
- Do you miss vacations because of your workload or a feeling that no one can stand in for you?
- Do important projects remain unfinished?
- Do you have more work than your team members do? Are you always the last to leave?
- Do you feel you’re constantly putting out fires rather than acting on opportunities?
- Do you fail to identify and address your company’s top priorities?
- Do you issue orders rather than accepting input from others?
For your team:
- Do they consult with you on even minor decisions?
- Do they follow the letter of any assignment, not the spirit?
- Do they have the same skills today as a year ago?
- Do they rarely offer suggestions for improvement or bring new ideas?
For your company:
- Do even minor decisions come from the top?
- Is the How (method) more important than the What (result)?
- Do decisions bottleneck because team members are afraid to make a decision?
- Are workaholics favored over those who work fewer hours but accomplish more?
- Are administrative tasks consuming leadership time?
Getting More Done in the Work Day by Delegating Tasks
How do you delegate effectively–feeling you can completely rely on the person to get the job done to your specifications? As with most big jobs, there’s a process for delegating tasks that requires preparation. Believe me: setting the groundwork for delegation is well worth the benefits.
Some precursors to success:
Identify a tangible outcome or result. To quote Steven Covey, “Start with the end in mind.” You must know what you want to accomplish.
Set specific requirements following SMART goal methodology:
- Specific & Measurable – I want to see a written report on the reasons for production backlog. The report should include an analysis of the last 5 years status at the same point in the year, interviews with the production and sales teams as to the causes and impacts of the backlog, as well as any outside factors you might find. You can hire outside help at an amount not to exceed $5,000.
- Achievable – I will make this a priority for the sales and production teams to support your efforts as well as have accounting provide needed access to historical data.
- Relevant – We’re losing orders to our competitors due to the extended production time frame.
- Time-bound – Due in 3 weeks.
Evaluate team member capabilities. Richard Branson said, “One of the key skills I learned as a young businessman was the power of delegation. That prompted me to bring in strong managers.”
To determine who is the best candidate when delegating tasks, consider the project (value, complexity, urgency and visibility) along with team capabilities.
- List key activities of the project and the critical skills needed to accomplish them. Per the example above: To prepare the report, I will need analytical and interpersonal interview skills, as well as organization expertise.
- Match your team member skills to the project – Most teams don’t have the “perfect” fit, so consider the following:
- What is likely the failure point? Say the best team member has great analytical and interpersonal skill, but is a poor writer.
- Consider the results of failure and determine how to mitigate them. For example, if writing is critical, can you have another team member perform the report writing step (and if so, you might revise the specifics above to include notes that will be conducive to writing the report or the team will work together to produce the report.)
- Consider growth opportunities. Devise means to support and monitor what may be different.
Decide HOW you will delegate; this step is the cornerstone of getting what you want while maintaining the motivation of the team members. Remember it’s delegation NOT abdication. In a culture of open communication, much of the following is embedded and is good practice in all environments.
- Make it clear there is shared responsibility. The team member should participate in defining parts of the delegated project. For example, is the due date reasonable with their current workload? Would they like to take the first run at writing the report and subject it to editing?
- Make responsibility commensurate with authority. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen people assigned task/projects beyond their authority. Be clear you have their back. Harry Truman was famous for saying, “the buck stops here.” Unfortunately, not everyone takes that level of responsibility. The task must be achievable. It’s your responsibility to clearly define and provide authority to achieve the outcome.
- Support the process. Since the buck does stop here, you have the responsibility to support success. In this example, you already noted you would make it clear to sales and production this is a priority project. If this were a longer project, you might attend update meetings or be called upon to increase the budget due to unforeseen circumstances. The team member must be comfortable reporting updates both good and bad. This is support ONLY, the project was already defined and the authority is appropriate.
- Establish checkpoints. The checkpoints can be deliverables (1st draft, interview notes, etc.) or a specific time and frequency (a memo at 9 a.m. or meeting for 10 minutes every Thursday at 9 a.m.) or both. The choice is dependent on a number of factors including length and complexity of a project, experience of a team member, visibility of the project, breadth of scope, and perceived risk of success. Establishing a schedule and form of reporting up front puts the burden of reporting on the team member. Be sure to also have a method of follow-up in place as part of your support.
- Add the WHY of picking the team member. If you were delegating tasks in terms of the SMART goals, when you meet with the team member to complete the actual delegation, provide specific insights as to why they’re the best candidate for the job. This will convey both the sense of urgency and the importance of the job.
By effectively delegating tasks, you will eliminate bottlenecks and free up more time to work on your business. As Richard Branson said, delegation “allowed me to focus on our latest ideas and projects, and on finding the next businesses to start up.”
Since many companies don’t have resources inside the business for delegation of projects that need to get done, you may rely on outside resources. One answer may be hiring a part-time CFO as a right-hand person to help with bigger projects or someone else to take care of administrative work such as bookkeeping.
Several online sites offer services to help reduce the workload on you and your team.
In the end, it’s important to delegate tasks and move items off your plate. Free yourself up to focus on the big picture. Avoid the temptation to do it all. Remember a true leader LEADS the team to success (no dragging or carrying). By using smart delegation strategies you’ll head a happier, more productive office.