Learning How to Delegate
Entrepreneurs have a tendency to be control freaks. They want to know what is happening in their businesses from top to bottom. An entrepreneur may have grown their company from its foundation in a spare bedroom to its current position of market dominance; it’s natural for them to fear that if they lose concentration then everything will start to fall apart.
Natural, but wrong! Nobody can do everything necessary to run a successful business. Even the most capable entrepreneur will need skilled colleagues to keep their enterprise growing and thriving. Learning to delegate some of the responsibility is a necessary skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
You Are Not Your BusinessAlthough you started your small business, and have devoted a good deal of time, thought, effort and money to it, remember that you are not your business. The success or failure of your business is not inextricably linked with your own success or failure; an attack on your business is not a personal attack on you; and your company may be able to continue even if you get hit by a bus while crossing the road!
Just as parents must let their offspring grow up and make their own way in the world, even to make their own mistakes, so must an entrepreneur cede some responsibility for a business as it grows in order to allow for its development. You must hire the best people you can find – people whom you trust – and hand over at least some of your responsibility to them.
Choosing What to DelegateIf your employees have skills that you do not possess yourself, it is an obvious benefit to pass on to them work that will exercise those skills. This is likely to create a better product and simultaneously provide stimulating work for the employee and help with their personal development.
You should not use delegation as an excuse to rid yourself of failing parts of your business, dumping the blame on someone else. Although you would probably not consciously do this, you must be careful not to do it subconsciously as a side-effect of delegating work you don’t enjoy doing.
The Act of DelegationWhen delegating, you need to make sure that you clearly explain what it is that you are delegating: what you want the outcome to be. In this way, the person you delegate to can make decisions based on this outcome without having to refer back to you about the details of the process. You must also be confident that the person to whom you entrust this outcome is capable of achieving it on their own initiative.
The person you select must have sufficient authority to achieve the task you set them. For example, if they need to assign work in turn to other employees, these employees must understand that your nominee has the authority to do this. Otherwise they may refuse, and tasks will remain undone unless you intervene.
The Buck Still Stops with YouBy delegating authority and responsibility, you are allowing your managers to do a more effective job. You do not disown these matters – it is still up to you to provide strategic direction and oversight, and if something goes wrong then the ultimate responsibility lies with you.
If you wish to run a successful business, learning to delegate is crucial. Otherwise, your enterprise will stop growing when it reaches the point where you can no longer micro-manage every small detail or, worse, growth will continue unchecked and mismanagement will impair the quality of the service you provide. If you feel the need to have a finger in every pie, you will never have more than ten pies!