When you start a business, you tend to do everything yourself at first. Ideas, communication, publicity, you name it. As your business grows, you may hold on to certain tasks, fearing the job won’t get done the “right” way if your turn it over to someone else. Or maybe you just have gotten into the habit of doing that job yourself and haven’t gotten around to hiring someone else to do it.
“I can do it,” you rationalize. “There’s no need to pay someone else to do it.”
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The trouble is that when you keep doing tasks that someone else can do for you, you lose time and efficiency. In addition, as your company grows, you can end up undermining your employees’ morale if you don’t turn over some responsibilities to them.
Delegating is an important part of time management. In her book Work Less, Do More: The 14-Day Productivity Makeover (Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc. 2008), author Jan Yager says, “You should be using your time for the most critical tasks for the business, and the tasks that only you can do.”
It is only when you start to trust and empower others to take on more responsibilities that your company can really begin to grow. Here are five key steps to delegating effectively.
1. Start small. If you are used you doing things yourself, you don’t need to all of a sudden turn everything over to someone else. Start with a small project or a routine task.
You might want to start with a job that you don’t like or that you don’t think fits your skill set as well as other jobs do. Maybe you enjoyed setting up your company webpage, for example, but you have lost interest in maintaining its content. Consider delegating that ongoing job to a staff member.
The idea is that you keep doing what you are great at and that you love the most while getting others to accomplish the rest. That way, you can move on to your company’s next step without stretching yourself too thin.
2. Choose the right person for the job.
Think carefully about selecting the best person or team for the job. Observe your employees so that you are familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. Base your selections on attitude, experience and reliability. Don’t just look for who needs more work; look for who can blend into this new responsibility seamlessly and without much ongoing supervision.
Be careful to not keep going to the same person as you find more and more jobs to delegate. You don’t want to burn out a good employee or cause tension among your staff.
3. Explain completely.
Here’s where some bosses falter. You need to find the right mix between explaining the new task and over-explaining it. Give simple, clear instructions and ask if he or she has any questions.
Give a firm deadline for the completion of the task (or a timetable, depending on how large the project is). Make sure the employee knows you are available for questions or concerns.
4. Trust the person to get the job done.
Resist the urge to keep checking on the employee or asking how the job is going. It is very difficult to work for someone who assigns you a task and then can’t let go of control over it.
Allow for different styles or ways to get the job done. The person may not approach the task the same way you do. Don’t be put off by this; be encouraged by it. Try to let go of your previous expectations and open yourself to the possibility that different can be good.
5. Acknowledge and reward.
Even if the job is not done perfectly, let your employee know you appreciated the effort. Maybe this person has stretched their abilities by taking on this new assignment. You can go a long way to establishing loyalty to your firm by giving the person public acknowledgement of a job well done. Also think about ways you can give written feedback in a job performance review.
While it is natural to be focused on the final product, encourage your employees by focusing on the skill, creativity, time and energy that they put into a new task. Remember you are building a team with your company. You can go a long way to strengthening that team by delegating duties.
As you can see, when it is handled effectively, delegating is a form of motivation. When employees take on more important tasks, they feel more invested in the company and in their roles there.
By allowing more people to do more of the work – particularly the work you do – you expand your sphere of influence. By allowing others to take over some of your tasks, you also free yourself up for new ideas and projects. You also save yourself from some burn-out.
“The surest way for an executive to kill himself is to refuse to learn how, and when, and to whom to delegate work,” said the founder of the J.C. Penney retail chain James Cash Penney.
While delegating may feel uncomfortable to you as a manager at first, and you may feel as if you are letting go of some well-earned control over how things are done, it’s worth it. You will end up streamlining your business, improving morale, and accomplishing more than ever.