As business owners, we hold many roles in its operations – leader, Accounts Payable, Customer Relations, Marketing, etc. This juggling of roles is very much necessary, especially when you are first getting the business off the ground because you want to ensure everything is set up properly or you can't afford to hire help just yet. But what happens when you hire additional staff and still take on many tasks of these on your own? While it may seem admirable or noble to be a leader who “works in the trenches” with his or her team, trying to do too much on your own can have you exhausted and frustrated, leave you with a team of under-utilized employees and impact your ability to properly serve your clients. So, what's a boss to do to spread the workload and get back to the business of leading? Learn the art of delegating tasks.
del·e·gate (verb) gerund or present participle: delegating /ˈdeləˌɡāt/Submit
entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself.
synonyms: assign, entrust, give, pass on, hand on/over, turn over, consign, devolve, depute, transfer
While it may seem like you are losing control, delegating does not mean that you are completely hands-off and not needed. You've still got deadlines to meet, goals to crush and clients to satisfy. You are the captain of the ship and should ensure that you know what your team is working on (high level) without hovering or micromanaging. Delegating is a good business practice to become a more effective leader and to build a better team that can contribute to your business' success. Here are some tips for delegating tasks:
- Set the Standard: Discuss task priorities, desired goals and authorization limits with the delegate. Be specific on what you consider a satisfactory outcome and provide examples. Always include instructions with details that the employee may not be aware of. If it is a project spread over several weeks or months, consider creating milestone targets to help the employee stay on track.
- Match Tasks to Employee Strengths: Every team member has their own set of strengths, weaknesses, and experience. Assign tasks based on skill level and expertise to ensure that they will be done to your satisfaction and to allow employees the opportunities for growth. Try to avoid selecting employees who are the most convenient (you know them better, they are near your office) or are your usual go-to delegates.
- Give Space: 2+2 = 4 but so does 3+1 and 5-1. While you would want your delegate to complete the assigned task exactly as you would and in the same order, understand that everyone has their own way of working and trust your choice. As an expert, you may have a set way of completing the task. However, it is important to give the employee room to take ownership of the assignment by allowing them to work it their own way. As long as they meet the pre-determined standards and timelines, it never hurts to have a fresh set of eyes on an existing process.
- Provide Support: Don't just dump and run. Ensure that your employee has adequate resources to complete the assigned task and be available for questions as needed. This does not mean solving all issues that arise but being available to help talk through the processes or providing a team that can assist with various parts of the assignment.
- Reward Employee: Decide ahead of time how to reward the employee for successfully completing the assignment. Reward levels should match the type and complexity of the task done as well as the successful completion of it. Some examples of rewards that you can consider are a handwritten note, email to the team acknowledging the employee's work, gift card, raise or bonus, time off, etc. Employees will be more likely to accept new tasks and work them at the highest levels when they know that their work will be recognized.
As John Heywood noted, many hands make light work. Learning to delegate can take time and energy but it is well worth the efforts. As a leader, relinquishing some day to day tasks will allow you more time to focus on the bigger picture of moving your business forward: fine-tuning your mission statement, working on the business plan and developing new strategies to attract new clientele. It can also help your team by increasing morale, confidence and productivity as they tackle challenges and learn new skills.