In my small business consulting practice, I work with a lot of owners who are rapidly growing their businesses. And as anyone who’s successfully grown a business knows, you can’t do everything yourself. At some point you’re going to have to share responsibilities or become a huge bottleneck, which can strangle your business’s growth.
I’ve found that one of the most necessary changes for an owner to make is to shift responsibilities from themselves to others – either to employees in their business or to outside vendors. And that shift can be hard. I get it. The business is your own creation. You’ve nurtured it from infancy, and surely you care more about it than any employee or vendor ever could, right? It’s hard to risk things going wrong because you delegated some key aspect of the business to someone else who might not have the same deep understanding as you do of the task and its importance. So, let’s talk about some ways to handle this situation without pulling your hair out.
Prepare yourself to delegate
The first step – and maybe the hardest – is to acknowledge that, even though your employee may care differently than you about the business, they probably still care more than enough to ensure the delegated responsibility is done well. And similarly, be open to new methods. Even if they carry out the work differently than you, that might not be bad – maybe they see a more efficient or effective way to get the work done. Owners must be open to – and embrace – the possibility of positive change coming from others, not only from your own leadership. Developing trusting working relationships strengthens your business and is critical to ongoing growth.
But Andrea, you may say, I’ve tried this and it failed horribly. That does happen – we’ve all heard stories or experienced it ourselves. Delegating involves picking the right employee or vendor, making your expectations crystal clear, training appropriately, and holding them accountable. I will dive deeper into this important topic in a future blog post. For now, focus on how to prepare yourself to delegate in the first place. Remember, it’s possible to delegate effectively. Countless owners do it every day; and you can too.
Delegating Responsibilities vs. Tasks
The second step is to decide what to keep on your plate and what to delegate. Owners are often comfortable delegating tasks, but not responsibilities. Here’s an example: I could delegate the task of posting this blog to my website, which is a technical task with well-defined steps, and I could tell the person when and how to do it. Or I could delegate the responsibility of ensuring we have a regular monthly blog post. This approach gives the employee the responsibility of ensuring my stated outcome – a regular monthly blog post – but gives them the freedom to figure out how to do it, and maybe do it in a more effective or innovative way than I would have done.
Delegating a task frees up some of your time, but none of the mental energy it takes to be responsible for something. In the long term, if you really plan to free yourself up to focus on leadership and growth, you will need to get comfortable delegating the entire responsibility.
Considering Best Use vs. Control in Delegating
When you pick areas to delegate, I encourage you to think about where your time and energy is best spent, in order for your company to thrive. Don’t think (yet) about whether you have someone you trust to delegate to – that’s a later step. Instead, think about the aspects of your work that you are really good at, and where the business needs you to do it, not someone else. For example, defining the company’s direction and goals is usually an owner’s task, whereas developing or executing the plan to achieve a goal might be delegated.
A different issue to consider is where it’s appropriate to maintain control, and how you can do that when you delegate. For example, authorizing bills to be paid. Often an owner’s instinct is to control all bill payment, but when we delve into the details, it turns out that we can put rules in place that provide enough safeguards to delegate the majority of bills. For example, bills that are very consistent month-to-month, such as rent or utilities, could be authorized by a delegee as long as they don’t vary more than 5% from the normal amount. Bills under $50, or bills for work that’s been authorized and approved in advance, are other examples. If we identify the bills that fall within the defined parameters and delegate payment of those, the owner is only dealing with exceptions or unusual bills. And spot checks or other safeguards can be put in place to catch any attempts to embezzle or redirect funds. Typical safeguards for financial management are called “internal controls” and do a lot to reduce both the temptation and the opportunity for financial mismanagement.
Finding the right person
The next step is deciding who to delegate to – an existing employee, a vendor, or a new hire, for example. This is a topic for another blog, but rest assured, you can find the right person who will take on key responsibilities and handle them well, as long as you can define your expectations and implement some simple accountability measures.
If the idea of delegating is overwhelming, Dunathan Consulting can help! Schedule a free consultation today to discuss your situation and begin the process of freeing yourself up to do your best work.