The Art of Delegating Work
April 7, 2014
'Nobody can do the job that has to be done as well as I can." This is a common refrain among small-business owners. Yet, it is impossible to be in all places at all times. Furthermore, if the business is expected to grow, the problems of shouldering too much of the burden will only be exacerbated. Sooner or later, it is inevitable that the business owner will have to give up some control and delegate more work to subordinates. Of course, letting go is easier said than done, but that is only part of the equation. To have a reasonable chance for success, it is also important for the other staff members to "buy into the process." Otherwise, the efforts will likely be doomed, and the business owner may be forced to resume full control. Keeping that in mind, here are several helpful hints for perfecting the "art" of delegation: • Go over the agenda. In particular, outline the tasks that will be delegated. Employees are not mind readers, so they must have some guidance of their duties and responsibilities. • Be clear, but concise. It is important to spell out definitively what should be accomplished. Although some direction can be helpful, do not go overboard on detailed instructions. The main thing is to be clear about the objectives. Knowing when to hand off work responsibilities is pivotal in any business. As the business owner, it is sometimes difficult to let go of duties and hand them off to your team. Here are a few ways to aid in the transition. • Set reasonable expectations. It is not enough to assign a job to someone else. When possible, use deadlines and mini-goals to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Conversely, do not expect a worker to "move mountains" where others have failed. • Display trust. When a business owner trusts a worker to do a job right, there is a better chance that the worker will succeed. But a lack of trust might cause the owner to over-worry, micro-manage the situation and generally make a pest of himself or herself. • Loosen the reins. Usually, a business owner will have a certain way of doing things, but that is not always the "right way," and certainly not the "only way." Give the worker enough flexibility to perform the task in a manner with which he or she is comfortable. Emphasize results over style. • Monitor progress. Delegating work does not mean abandoning the job completely. Communicate frequently with the worker throughout the process, and follow up to ensure that things are proceeding smoothly. This does not mean over-managing, over-analyzing or charting every movement. It does mean, however, checking to see if interim goals are being met. These suggestions are not set in stone and may be modified to suit the particular situation and profession or industry. One possible alternative is to phase-in delegation slowly. The key idea to remember: Spreading out the work and responsibilities is usually beneficial in the long run.