In my role as a business advisor, a complaint I often hear from owners and professionals alike is that there is just not enough time to get everything done. This is especially true of those of you who are perfectionists, and feel hard-pressed to delegate critical tasks to anyone who may be less capable. Even worse, I hear the terms control freak or micro-manager tossed around.
The solution, in most cases, is more effective delegation of work to the right people. I’m convinced that effective delegation is a skill that we can all learn and benefit from, and improve on over time, through a new and continual focus on the following key principles:
- Give everyone at least one chance to earn your trust. You really don’t know what others around you are capable of until you give them a chance. Don’t assume anything. Less experienced people need the challenge, and you may be the only obstacle to their progress, as well as yours. This starts by hiring people with the right skills and training.
- Evaluate every task for the opportunity to delegate. We all have strengths as well as key interest areas. Delegate to match the strengths and interests of others. You need to keep only the most critical tasks for your role and delegate others to give you the focus to excel in the ones you keep. Don’t wait until you are overloaded to consider delegation.
- Never delegate work to others that is rightfully yours. Delegation should never be seen as unloading undesired work, or automated load balancing. Every task should be evaluated for applicability, priority, and fit to your role. Arbitrary delegation will likely result in poor quality work, loss of trust, and ineffective use of everyone’s time and skills.
- Focus on providing clear instructions and coaching. I often find that people who disappoint in delivery never really knew what was expected, or how it was to be done. Think back to when you were new in this area, and what would have helped you to get the job done quickly and effectively. Make sure they have the right tools and sources.
- Set completion times and milestones for follow-up. Just handing out work and expecting no more involvement is not a good strategy. Always expect to check interim milestones, and be attentive to other indicators of good progress or problems. This is an area where multi-tasking and management by walking around pays big dividends.
- Delegate decision authority as well as responsibility. If you insist on making all the decisions, you have not really delegated the task. Make sure the person doing the work has all the tools, resources, and decision rights necessary to do the job without constant support from you. Delegation should never result in multiple people doing the same job.
- Give private and peer recognition for jobs well done. To provide the highest incentive to complete delegated work, and inspire loyalty and trust, don’t forget to provide the positive individual feedback deserved, as well as peer recognition for progress and results. Don’t make the mistake of always taking credit and never giving credit for work.
- Learn to say no when others request help from you. Perhaps you are your own worst enemy, by being too quick to accept assistance requests from others. Some people may try to dodge responsibility or lighten their own workload by pushing their work to you, or frequently asking for your help. Practice speed mentoring, and ask for interim progress.
Another approach to avoid appearing negative is to ask for time later to discuss the specifics. This gives you a chance to check your calendar first, or give some thought to alternatives before committing. You can also seek reciprocal help to balance the impact.
I understand that all of you who have grown a business from a single-person entity are reluctant to believe that another person can do the work as well as you. Yet your growth and the growth of your business depends on your ability to manage the bigger picture, as well as get the day-to-day work done. You can’t be the leader and have the success you want, if you kill yourself with work.