Effective Delegation for Small Business Owners

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Welcome to my series of podcasts that will help you to navigate those inevitable difficult events at work that are part of being a manager. 

Today I want to talk about effective delegation for small business owners. 

When you own your own business, you’re probably so used to doing everything yourself that when the time comes to embrace growth and let go of the reins a little, you can find it very difficult, or even impossible. 

All sorts of thoughts and worries will go through your head like ‘I can do things better and quicker myself’ or ‘What if by delegating I’m giving away my power and influence?’

However, delegation is crucial to the success of your business. How are you going to be able to focus on the bigger strategic tasks if your time is taken up by firefighting or dealing with trivial matters? Are you going to be able to keep doing everything yourself as your business grows, and at a standard that your clients expect? 

So what is it about delegation that business owners find so hard? Let’s look at some barriers to effective delegation. 

The first one is fear of failure. The worry that you’ll delegate a task to someone else and they’ll make a huge mistake and fail. The thing is, everyone makes mistakes. I bet if you think back over the course of your career, you’ll be able to think of a few. But mistakes can be learned from and they can lead to better performance or operations. Trust in the ability of your team to get there in the end, because they will. 

Next, is the ‘I can do it better myself’ syndrome. Even if this is true, is it better for the business that you do every single task? Is it not better that you look at the tasks on your list and identify those that are going to add the most value and focus on those, rather than getting bogged down with mundane jobs? If your team completes the delegated tasks to an acceptable standard, that is fine. Perfection is not required. 

But what if you like doing certain tasks? Of course, there are going to be some things you enjoy more than others, but again, you need to ask yourself if this is a task you should be focusing on. I’m not saying you should delegate everything, because that’s not what effective delegation is, rather you should think about whether your time and effort could be better spent elsewhere. 

Finally, the fear of giving away too much of your authority is a significant barrier to effective delegation. Well let me allay your fears; you won’t be giving your authority away at all. Because no matter what the task is or who you delegate it to, the buck stops with you. This is why it’s important to choose the right person for the task and give them the authority, resources, and training they need to complete it. 

Of course, you can check in and see how they’re getting on, but don’t fall into the micromanaging trap. Develop your employees, and show them you value and trust them, then reap the rewards. 

So, how do you delegate effectively?

First of all, decide what you should delegate. If you’ve never really delegated before, start with a small task that’s not hugely important or which has a strict deadline. You need to allow for mistakes and some to-ing and fro-ing until you get things right. Don’t delegate anything you’d never do yourself as your team will realise and it could damage your reputation and your working relationship. 

Next, it’s essential to choose the right people for the task. Who can do the job well? Who can work independently without you having to constantly babysit them or harangue them for work? Always take into account people’s strengths and weaknesses when you’re delegating tasks or you could be setting them up for failure. As time goes on you’ll get a good feel for who the go-to people for certain types of tasks are. 

Being clear about your expectations from the start when you delegate a task is also essential for effective delegation. Tell your team what you expect and when you expect it to be done by. Provide clear guidance on the task; this will save a lot of time in the long run and reduce the potential for error. 

Once things are underway, check in to monitor progress and offer support but don’t be tempted to wade in and take over. This can make people feel like you don’t trust their abilities. 

Delegating tasks can seem like a lot of work initially. You have to take the time out to explain things, answer questions, and attend progress meetings, but be patient and understand that mistakes can happen. Your team members are only human, as are you, and it’s not likely that you got where you are today by never making a mistake. 

Lastly, give credit where it’s due for a job well done. Thank your team members for helping out and give them a small reward if appropriate. 

Delegating, and being comfortable with delegation, takes time.

Of course, your business is your baby, and if you’ve built something up from nothing it can be hard to let go. But for your business to become successful, it needs a forward-thinking effective manager to lead it. And you can’t be either of those things if you continue to work on the things that aren’t going to take your business forward. 

I hope that you got some good tips from today’s podcast, and I’ll see you next time for the next one in the series. 

This is The People Mentor, signing off.

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