Getting delegation right in a small business is a complex process that needs careful thought. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s a familiar story for many small businesses. In the beginning, you were the sales manager, and you were the head of business development. You were also the marketing director, you were front of house and you were the accountant. You name it, you’ve done it.
However, times quickly change. And it’s just as well. There’s only so long you can wear every hat going.
But to grow the business, you need to invest in people to take some weight off. And with new people comes a need for you to delegate to them. After all, it’s pointless bringing them in if their very presence is going to suck up more of your time.
Of course, when it comes to delegating, there’s the basics – be clear, set expectations and specify outcomes.
But delegation means entrusting and empowering someone else, not just getting them to do some stuff. Here’s what you need to know to truly delegate well.
Think of it as coaching
Asking someone to do some filing, set up some interviews or complete some ordering isn’t delegation. You’ve just asked them to complete tasks.
The idea of delegation is to create new skill sets so ultimately the employee can run that process autonomously, without your input.
So, rather than ‘setting up interviews’, you may ask them to run the recruitment process, and then break the process down into individual components that you can coach them on.
That way, they are learning and developing, as well as taking something off your plate.
Delegate not abdicate
We’ve all been there – that Friday, 4.45pm handover when someone’s already got half a foot out of the door and 80% of their brain in Bali. And it’s usually a recipe for disaster. Remember, this is delegation, not abdication.
For delegation to be successful, the delegator must be around – for support, as a safety net and as a backup – throughout the process of someone else doing that job. Ask questions such as, “What do you need from me to achieve this task?”, and check in regularly to ensure the process is moving on as you need it to, while giving them the space to solve problems and tackle the ‘doing’ themselves.
Don’t delegate discovery
If you’re prioritising what you should delegate, discovery should be way down the list. If you’re researching new markets, new products or new opportunities, the nuances you’ll pick up could well be missed by someone without your background, context and experience.
Discovery is what’s going to drive the business forward, so it’s essential that one remains with you.
Delegate the right amount
When you’re growing a small business and have built a team you can trust, it’s easy to focus a disproportionate amount of attention on what’s next, rather than what is going on day-to-day.
Ensure that you retain full visibility over what’s happening right now in the business, otherwise, you risk your culture and values – the essence of what has made your business successful so far – being diluted. Your employees could potentially feel abandoned and become disenfranchised.
Of course, you don’t want to be involved in the doing of everything – that’s the whole point of delegation. But if you feel disconnected from the day-to-day, arranging weekly debriefing sessions, or even taking on a symbolic task that enables you to get involved in the nitty gritty, can demonstrate you are still actively involved.
Accept it will be done differently
One of the biggest hurdles people have with delegation, is accepting a different approach or indeed a slightly different outcome.
Of course, some process-driven tasks are formulaic and have to be done in a specific way. Others, however – certainly more creative tasks – would never be done in the same way by two different people.
So rationalise your expectations before you delegate. After all, do you want a clone, or do you want to empower someone to help you achieve something greater than you could have working by yourself?
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