Updated: May 11
In business, delegation can be a difficult and confusing concept to grasp. Is it really worth asking someone to do a task you know you can do better yourself? How do you delegate without acting like a slave driver?
Today we are going to demystify the delegation process and provide tips on how you can best get your team working hard for you!
Delegation in business can seem simple at first glance, but there are ways you can improve how you delegate tasks within a business. With these tips, you can optimise how tasks are approached in your business.
First, let’s go over what delegation is. Delegation, in business terms refers to the act of conferring some of your functions or powers on another, so he or she can act on your behalf.
DELEGATION OR OUTSOURCING?
It is also important to clarify the differences between delegating and outsourcing. So, what are the differences? Semantics, mainly. Outsourcing involves purchasing goods or subcontracting services from an outside company, while delegation often refers to giving tasks to internal employees.
Delegation is a touchy subject because delegation essentially means relinquishing control! This is something many people struggle with, often because it is common for founders and leaders to believe that they alone, are the only ones who can complete a task as well as they do. or as the saying goes “if you want something done right, do it yourself”. However, effective delegation should not be ignored as a critical skill for small business success. An inability to completely delegate is one of the main reasons that founders, and executives fail in business. Delegation is a dirty word and people often mistake it for laziness and passing off work, so they refuse to do it.
Now, onto some key tips for delegation in business.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
Firstly, choose the tasks you are willing to delegate. As a small business owner or manager, you should be using your time on the most critical tasks for the business, and the ones only you can do. Thus, tasks that don’t fit your skillset should be delegated to others, such as making a website if you don’t have the appropriate tech skills. Don’t delegate too much though, try to utilise your skills as much as possible, within reason.
Delegating will likely result in high costs and a lack of control. This seems like obvious advice; however, I can’t stress enough the importance of not being a control freak in business. Not only are you likely to fail at tasks if you don’t have the appropriate skillset, but you are also likely to overextend yourself, and may encounter burn out. Try to get into the right mindset for delegation and address the insecurities you might have about giving up responsibility.
You can more effectively choose which tasks to delegate by developing a firm priority system. Start mapping tasks out by creating at least four categories, according to the degree of effort required to complete the task as well as and the degree of skill involved. The highest of which should contain tasks that you should keep on your own plate, while those in the lower-skilled categories can be assigned to others. The degree of effort should tell you which tasks are more important to delegate, for example, delegating responsibility for a high effort, low skill task will save you lots of time. This will help you make decisions when your team is swamped with work.
KNOW YOUR PEOPLE
The next thing to consider is picking the best person to delegate to. Closely observe the traits, values, and skills of the people you are considering. Play to the strengths or your employees or team members. Give work to the people you know will deliver, rather than those who are least busy. It is also important to take an unbiased approach to picking people, try to avoid nepotism or other forms of favouritism. This can lead to a decrease in efficiency.
Trust is an important factor in delegation. Trusting the person you are delegating a task to, both takes stress off your shoulders and allows the person to approach the task in their own way. Relinquishing control in this way can be scary to some people, but it is crucial to establishing a good relationship between you and the people you are delegating tasks to. It is important to remember that, though the work must be done well, a “my way or the highway” approach is not always helpful.
It is also important to give clear assignments and instructions. Try to strike a balance between explaining so much detail that the listener is insulted, and not explaining enough. Try to think back to when you were learning how to approach a new task. Be thorough, don’t leave any of the key details out. Ask the employee or team member if they understand the task and have all the information they need, without patronising them.
It is also helpful to set a definite completion date and a follow-up system, this is especially important for newer employees. A specific deadline with milestones is crucial, as it lays out a clear map of the task at hand, ensuring that if something goes wrong, you will know straight away, rather than on the deadline day. However, it is important not to watch over the shoulder of the employee, as this can sour relations between you and your team member. Make sure you are accessible, so the person you assigned the task to, can approach you with any questions or concerns.
UPSKILL AND EMPOWER YOUR EMPLOYEES
Focus on teaching skills. They say if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day but teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. In the same vein, you should try to teach your employees or team members to be self-reliant. This is important, as it saves you time and energy spent micro-managing your team, allowing you to focus on more important things.
To achieve this, you must let your employees stretch their skills and judgement, but you may have to go out of your way to teach the team new things, such as in training seminars. Be consistent in who you hand over tasks to, as delegating the same type of tasks to the same person will eventually increase their aptitude for those types of tasks. As you hand over more and more responsibility, it is important to recognize that learning new skills can sometimes include making mistakes. Acknowledge when employees make a good faith effort to do things right, and don’t expect perfection at all times.
Additionally, you don't want to disregard the importance of giving credit where credit is due. This is often overlooked by business owners but giving public and written credit inspires loyalty and is convenient for performance reviews. The employee gets the recognition and satisfaction of being credited for their work, and in turn, you are creating a worker who is more likely to approach tasks with enthusiasm, so everyone wins. Additionally, provide specific feedback on where they went wrong or right in undertaking the task. However, be mindful when doing so, ensure that employees are not fearful of making mistakes because they will either be reprimanded, or they will be faced with negative consequences. The feedback process is all about providing guidance, mentoring, recognition, and support to your employees.
IT IS ALL OR NOTHING
Delegate responsibility and authority, not just the task itself. Make sure the chain of command is well established, so you don’t find yourself reporting to your subordinates and ending up doing some of the work, rather than vice versa.
Another important thing to consider is how to avoid reversal of your delegation. Some team members simply won’t want to do the tasks you give them. This is can be due to lack of comfort, or the avoidance of responsibility. Accepting this reversal is fine in extreme cases, but don’t give into laziness.
A good way to prevent this is “selling” the team member the task or role, without being too pushy. Let your employee know why you chose them for the job. When you show others that you support their growth and development; it builds a culture of trust. Employees who view delegated tasks as opportunities rather than burdens will likely be more invested in the outcome.
Don’t overlook the importance of receiving feedback yourself. Invite your workers to share their thoughts on how you’re delegating tasks. It is a critical change for you to determine whether you are providing enough information, or whether you’re assigning the right tasks to the right people. Take this feedback onboard and make ongoing adjustments for continuous improvement.
Almost everyone who has grown their business from a one-person entity to a larger business with many employees has struggled with delegation at one point or another. Every entrepreneur needs to set aside their fear of delegating, if you delegate right, as outlined by the tips above, every task will likely be done better than you could do it. Delegating isn’t always easy, and the process isn’t always clear cut, but the sooner you start, the more efficient and productive your team or business will become.
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