Even those business owners who can literally do everything … or think they can do everything … sometimes do find that they need to delegate. Ahem, I wouldn’t know what you’re talking about! Because, I’ve always been the perfect manager, knowing when to take on responsibility and knowing when to delegate out tasks. Yeah, right!
The truth is, effective management, including how and when to delegate, requires extensive practice. And extensive practice implies epic failures along the way.
That’s right. You can teach yourself how to delegate. It’s a learned skill. So, if you’re really bad at it when you start, there’s still hope! I’ve found that there are 3 steps to effective delegation.
Step 1: Make a list. Write down all of the things you should not be doing and prioritize the easiest ones to hand off to your employees.
Step 2: Create a system. This is where many managers and business owners fail at delegating. You’ll want to systematize everything you delegate by writing out procedures for how to complete the tasks you are giving up. Give explicit instructions. Every detail is important. Explain in detail to your employees how to do the task, the goal of completing it, and make sure they know they can check in with questions. Yes, this is very time consuming—in the beginning—but you’re teaching your employees new skills. Eventually these skills will become part of their daily work and you won’t have to spend as much time on explaining systems.
Step 3: Start small. Transfer 1 task at a time and schedule frequent check-ins to make sure the work is getting done to your satisfaction. It’s important to remember to give feedback—good and bad as needed. If you find the task isn’t completed to your satisfaction, this is where you give the employee the chance to correct it—not get frustrated and do it yourself!
Unfortunately, these steps take a lot of time to set up in the beginning, which is why many managers and business owners are really bad at transferring work to their employees.
You know the excuses … “If I do it myself, it will take less time.” Or … “I don’t have time to teach anyone how to do it, so I’ll just keep doing it myself.” Or, my favorite … “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Bullsh*t! If you don’t learn how to delegate tasks to your employees, you’ll never free up your own time to work on business owner stuff. As the owner of the business, you’re the visionary—and if you’re stuck doing work that your employees can take care of, I highly doubt you’ll have time to think big and take your business to the next level.
There is, however, 1 thing that you should absolutely avoid when delegating … and that is, jumping back in to do everything yourself. Once you start giving more responsibility to your employees, you cannot swoop back in and re-insert yourself into those activities.
I was 100% guilty of this when I first started giving my managers more responsibility. It’s not that I didn’t trust my managers to take care of their work. I just felt like I didn’t have enough to do. When you’re used to doing almost everything, and then you hand off work, it’s important to have a plan to either accept that you have less to do, or find other things to do with that time. Oops!
Even if you’re not so good at delegating in the beginning, keep at it. You’ll get better with practice! And don’t ever—and I mean ever—try to take back what you’ve delegated.