Business owners are accustomed to wearing several hats and having control over every aspect of their company, dispensing with any delegation tactics. Recent research from Salesforce found that small business owners are personally responsible for an average of 4.2 roles in their business. While that much work can be exhausting, for those who enjoy entrepreneurship, it’s also gratifying. There aren’t any outside factors, you’re in the driver seat, and success or failure solely depends on your efforts. However, if you’d like to scale your business (or finally take some time off), you need to learn delegation tactics and use them.
Why do you need delegation tactics?
Many leaders struggle with delegation. A psychological study offered two reasons why business owners are reluctant to delegate:
- A faith in supervision effect, which reflects the tendency of observers to see work performed under the control of a supervisor as better than identical work done without as much supervision.
- A self-enhancement effect, which reflects the tendency of managers to evaluate a work product more highly the more self-involved they are in its production.
This boils down to a simple fact: most leaders think they need to oversee tasks directly and that their work will always be best.
In other words, leaders are often perfectionists and if they’re in control, they feel they can better ensure the outcome.
Yet, Gallup research found that CEOs who successfully delegate generate 33% more revenue than those that don’t.
If you want to see the mental and financial benefits of delegation, consider these five delegation tactics.
1. Figure out what stays on your plate
The first step to delegation is figuring out what tasks you can pass off to your staff and which you should keep. This helps you accomplish two things, manage overwhelm and deliver better, more timely results, as Elena Carstoiu, COO of Hubgets, explains:
“Handling everything by yourself can quickly become overwhelming, especially when the project hits a rough spot. When you make it collaborative by involving others in the process, responsibilities can be shared, and the amount of work can be divided. Team leaders engaged in team collaboration are more likely to deliver on time and with better results.”
Start by doing an audit of your average week.
I recommend using a timer to get an accurate overview of how much time you’re spending on each task.
Be thorough and include everything you do throughout your workday — even during off-hours, like firing a quick email off after dinner from your smartphone.
To help determine what to offload or make more collaborative, refer to business strategist and author Jenny Blake’s Six Ts:
- Tiny: Small tasks that seem inconsequential but add up and take away from your normal flow, like booking travel or meetings — delegate.
- Tedious: Simple projects that are not the best use of your time such as admin or data entry — delegate.
- Time-consuming: More complex tasks, that while important, you can still delegate the initial 80% of work, then finish it yourself — partially delegate.
- Teachable: Projects that might require training and final approval but can still be passed off — delegate.
- Terrible at: The tasks you’ve taken on but aren’t in your wheelhouse. I’m looking at you, business owners trying to piece together graphic design. Find someone more experienced who can do it better, in less time — delegate.
- Time-sensitive: This is a balancing act. You can’t do everything, so when you’re overbooked, pass off coinciding priorities so they don’t fall through the cracks — delegate as necessary.
2. Find the right candidate and start small
Once you’ve determined the regular tasks that you can transfer to an employee, find the right person to whom you’ll delegate.
Keep in mind the responsibilities, and play to a candidate’s strength.
For example, you wouldn’t ask a member of your marketing staff to take over financial bookkeeping. While this is obvious, what might be less obvious is looking at each employee’s full range of strengths.
Genevieve Conti of MeisterTask explains, “Part of being a good leader is understanding your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. If you need to delegate a task that is going to require a lot of collaboration to complete, don’t delegate it to someone who very strongly prefers working alone.”
Remember, however, that you may need a healthy dose of patience and trust.
Not everyone will do things exactly the way you do them, or pick up things as quickly as you can.
There’s always a learning curve. Trust that if you find the right person and have patience with the process, the delegation will eventually make your life easier.
3. Set clear expectations
Expectations are essential when delegating tasks. Explicitly outline new assignments and the desired outcome so you don’t leave any room for misinterpretation or ambiguity.
How do you do this? Make sure your team member can answer the following three questions about each task, as outlined by Michael D. Walkins, Professor at IMD Business School:
- What do I need to do? Define the goals, timeframe and measurement for success.
- How should I go about doing it? Give specific strategies on how to accomplish goals as well as help with prioritization.
- Why should I feel motivated to accomplish it? Communicate the overall company vision and how these tasks move the needle towards the target.
When team members understand the scope of their contributions, plus how their duties impact the overall objectives of the business, they’ll be more motivated and inspired to take on new work — and you’ll see better results.
4. Engage, don’t micromanage
Throughout the training process, be available to consult, help and motivate as your employee learns. However, remember that there’s a fine line between checking in and micromanaging.
Studies show that micromanaging can have significant mental and physical health impacts on employees. It shows that you don’t trust that employee, which means they’re anything but empowered to take it on for you.
Covey explains that it’s far better to communicate the desired end result, instead of the specific activity. Covey offers the example: “Here’s what we are doing, here’s what we’re after. I want you to get the sale,” instead of, “Follow up on those leads.”
5. Document processes
Your future self will thank you if you document your process as soon as you start delegating and training. While documenting knowledge, workflows and expectations requires an initial investment of your time, it will pay off.
First, documentation helps answer low-level inquiries from your staff as they learn their new roles. It also serves as a resource for them when they might be too intimidated to ask small or repeat questions.
Second, your employees won’t be in their roles forever. As a leader and mentor, you want your staff to grow and evolve, and when a staff member moves on, you’ll have a documented training and onboarding process for new hires. What’s more, employees can update documentation as they streamline processes, ensuring all tricks and tips are captured in one place.
To create living, cloud-based documentation, try project management tools like SharePoint, Google Drive, Trello or Evernote. You can even record training sessions with your staff and host these in the same drive.
Editor’s note: SharePoint and Teams are featured in Microsoft Office 365 from GoDaddy, so you can collaborate and delegate with ease.
It’s time to start delegating
The hands-on approach might work when launching your business, but it’s not viable for growth. As the common management adage says, leaders should work on their business, not just in it.
Delegation will allow you to free up time, get out of the weeds and focus on your future goals and objectives. Use these five delegation tactics to start moving work to your employees today and freeing yourself up to take the business to the next level.