Delegate Or Die

Delegate Or Die

As an entrepreneur whose business has several moving parts, doing everything by yourself is suicidal and micromanagement is not sustainable. At first, controlling every part of your business might seem like a good compromise (compared with working alone) and an effective way of making sure your employees get things done on time. It could even work for a while. Eventually though, it will make you sick, stifle your employees' performance and growth, and lead to operational inefficiency.

But I cannot let anyone ruin what I have worked hard to build.

We know and understand your fear of trusting people with work. It is normal to feel this way, seeing as you want to protect your business from incompetence. But 'normal' is not always right, and in this case, the fear of giving people some responsibility and the freedom to work instead of constantly looking over their shoulders is highly counterproductive. Delegation, if done the right way, will help keep your business running smoothly. It could even save your life.

How do I delegate the right way?

1. First, fix your attitude.

You probably don't want to delegate. In fact, you'd rather die than assign an important task to an 'ordinary' employee. Listen, you're getting in your own way and your attitude is killing you! The first obstacle to delegating the right way is your mindset. You're wrong to think that nothing will be done right if you don't do it yourself. Show people how you want things done and have faith in them to follow your instructions. You're also wrong to think that having less to do personally is a bad thing. You know you can use the free time so free up time by letting go a little at a time.

2. Decide what you want to delegate and who to delegate to.

Delegation doesn't mean dumping all the work on your employees. That's just irresponsible. Rather, it means giving them responsibility for tasks you do not absolutely have to do (or cannot do) yourself. Save the super-important tasks for yourself and assign regular, everyday tasks to staff who have the capacity to do them.

Side note: Delegation isn't just picking anyone to do something, you need to pick the right person to do a good job.

Also, don't struggle to do things you do not have the skills for. For example, if you know nothing about computer networking, don't waste time in the server room. Go and be useful elsewhere while your IT person tangles with the wires.

3. Delegate authority along with tasks.

Delegation is an opportunity to give your employees a sense of responsibility and co-ownership, but you can only take this opportunity if you go beyond merely assigning tasks to giving them the freedom to do those tasks their way.

Trust is a key ingredient in the recipe for effective delegation. Without it, your employees will pull you into micromanaging them by constantly asking for your opinion of what they are doing. People need room to get work done, they also need you to believe in their ability to do the work the best way. Show your confidence by giving them the space and power to deliver their best on their own terms, providing guidance when necessary and using reasonable deadlines to keep them on schedule.

4. Provide clear and complete information about tasks when delegating.

In the hurry to get work off your hands, you could skip the important details of a task and set your employees up to fail at it. Avoid this by providing the resources and instructions they need to do a task properly at the point of delegation. Don't overexplain. Spoon-feeding is not the goal, it won't help them grow. Instead, give them just enough to help them start well then let them run on their own.

5. Set deadlines and define your style of tracking and reviewing work.

You won't help anyone by giving them a task without a schedule to get it done. At the point of delegation, provide a clear deadline for completing a task. Also, be clear on how work will be tracked and reviewed. For example, if a task will take three weeks, you might want to receive a progress report every day and review work done at the end of each week. Be sure that reviews are not too frequent or you'll be right back to micromanaging.

Side note: Reviewing work is not just about assessing performance, it is also about measuring growth. Ask your employees what they learned while working on tasks and what the experience was like for them. Look out for positive and negative attitudes, and new skills acquired.

6. Appreciate effort.

Your employees need to know that you're grateful for the work they do. Yes, they are paid to work but there's something special about showing them your sincere gratitude. Don't hold back on thanking them for committing their time and energy to working on the tasks you assign them. You will lift their spirits, help them develop a positive attitude and encourage them to take on more responsibility in the future.

The bottom line:

Delegation is vital to effective management. You and your business won't go far if you try to do everything alone, and your staff will not give their best if you're constantly second-guessing their work. Focus on the things that really need your attention, let go of minor tasks, trust your staff and let your business grow.

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