We entrepreneurs always have multiple plates spinning. Much of the time, it feels like there simply aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish the things we really need to do as leaders.
Like creating a strategic plan. Ensuring your team has the resources to execute that plan and realize your vision. Making smart business decisions. Building your culture. And overseeing your organization's performance.
When you spend too much time fighting fires or working on B- and C-level tasks, you can't devote enough time to those executive-level responsibilities which drive your organization's long-term success.
So one of two things needs to happen. You need to either clone yourself, or start - yep, I'm going to say it - DELEGATING.
Delegation is not a 4-letter word.
So why do so many entrepreneurs resist it?
I've heard the excuses:
• I don't have time to delegate.
• It'll make me look weak or incompetent.
• It's easier for me to do it than to teach someone else how to.
• Nobody else can handle this.
• If I don't do it, it won't get done right.
And frankly, I used a few of them myself during the early stages of my career. But experience was a great teacher. Eventually, I grew tired of working 14-hour days and still not accomplishing my A-level tasks.
So, several mistakes and countless wasted hours later, I stopped making excuses. Stopped being a control freak. Got on the delegation bandwagon. And never looked back.
You should get on the bandwagon, too.
Who knows - you actually may be able to do it all yourself. But that doesn't mean you should! Here are just a few of the advantages effective delegation delivers:
• Focus on your true role as an entrepreneur. When you launch your own company, so much of your energy is spent resolving unexpected issues and just keeping your business afloat. Unless you clear some of that work from your plate, you'll never have time to devote to those "important things" I mentioned above.
• Grow and retain your most vital asset - your people. Many employees crave opportunities to shoulder more responsibility and develop new skills - and delegation provides those opportunities. Furthermore, people actually enjoy working on the things they're good at (surprise, surprise), creating a satisfaction-boosting "sweet spot" in which you all can operate.
• Drive productivity. When you delegate each task to the person best equipped to complete it, quality and productivity naturally soar.
• Increase teamwork. No matter how hard individuals work, there are limits to what they can accomplish alone. By transferring responsibility to employees collectively, they focus less on whose job is what - and more on working together to achieve the bigger goal.
Delegating effectively pays off by driving efficiency and productivity, as well as employee growth, retention and satisfaction. Here's how to do it right.
Curing the Common Control Freak
1. Identify tasks to delegate.
If you're a busy entrepreneur suffering from an inability to hand over the reins, use these criteria to determine what you can delegate:
• B- and C-level tasks. Never completely delegate responsibilities related to setting strategic direction, brand positioning or final hiring decisions for key positions.
• Recurring tasks. If a job needs to be done daily, weekly or monthly, teaching an employee to do it will yield recurring time gains for you.
• Things you're not a true expert in. Nobody is great at everything! Figure out where your true expertise lies and focus your efforts there. Then, surround yourself with professionals who can handle those things outside your areas of expertise more efficiently and effectively.
• Jobs that help improve employees' skills. If an employee can learn a task with minimal effort, training him to do it will make him more valuable to your organization - and make him feel more valued, too.
2. Assign responsibilities to the right people.
To determine if an employee is a good candidate for delegation, look for the following qualities:
• Knowledge, skill and desire to learn. An individual will do his best work when he enjoys what he's learning. Make sure the employee receiving the task is eager to be involved in the endeavor.
• Self-sufficiency. Independent learning and focus are essential to completing delegated work effectively.
• Trustworthiness. Relinquishing control requires implicit trust - otherwise, you'll waste valuable time micromanaging.
• Capacity. Before you hand-off a project or task, make sure the recipient has room on his plate. Otherwise, you're just "passing the buck."
3. Then get it off your plate!
• Explain why you're delegating. When employees understand the "big picture" advantages to delegation - as well as the ways delegation benefits them - they'll be more invested and committed to success.
• Provide clear instructions and key steps. Make sure employees know what you're handing over and how to implement each step. Check for comprehension by asking employees what aspects of the task seem unclear or require further discussion.
• State the goal, milestones, deadlines. Describe what the results should look like. Then lay out milestones, including the dates by which employees should have them completed. Obtain agreement upfront on these milestones, as well as the mechanisms you'll use to monitor progress.
• Provide adequate support. Make sure employees have the resources they need to do the job, and make yourself available to answer questions as they arise.
• Provide adequate authority. In other words, let go! Give your employees sufficient authority to execute, making sure that everyone involved in, or impacted by, your delegation efforts understands the shift.
• Plan in rework time. Keep tabs on progress and budget time for revisions or re-dos which may be required. When you send work back, provide specific feedback for correction.
• Reward exceptional performance. When a delegated project is successfully completed, celebrate that success as a team.
• Debrief. Assemble everyone involved in the work delegated. Examine the process and the results to identify what worked, as well as what needs to be modified the next time around.
At the end of the day, effective delegation does more than just take tasks off your plate. It helps you build more cohesive, productive teams; it empowers and develops your employees; and it makes you a more effective entrepreneur. The next time you feel your inner "control freak" coming on, nip it in the bud - with smart delegation.