When I started my first business I had no employees. For the first year, I was responsible for everything from the toilet to the sales to the bank deposits. When I did eventually hire, I had to decide what to assign and how to oversee those assignments, which was harder than I could imagine.
Many owners recognize the need to share the work load, but struggle with what and how to delegate these tasks. Some micromanage while others dictate a responsibility without sharing the wisdom behind the decision. Either of these approaches could be setting up your staff to fail.
Here are some ideas on how to set yourself for success:
Choose which tasks to assign others. This has as much to do with you as it does with them. To create a scalable business, you cannot be the only one able to generate sales and revenue. For example, if you’re an master pie maker and open a bakery, you must teach others how to make pies or else you business will forever be limited to your expertise.
You also need to be truthful with regards to the parts of your business you are naturally drawn to and what skills your staff bring to the table. If you detest the bookkeeping, but realize it needs to be managed, you should stick with pie-making and hire someone to look after the books.
The facets of your business where only you can add value should be the ones you prioritize. Don’t let yourself get caught in details and tasks that can easily delegated, otherwise you are depriving business of your time for overall creativity and strategic direction.
The most common excuse I hear from owners who get bogged down is lack of funds to pay an employee, assistant or manager. Meanwhile, they are doing daily bank runs, taking out the trash or unloading shipments while ignoring their leadership responsibilities. In this case, the business is paying for it anyway – only twice over. One cost is the money they take out of the business in exchange for doing these types of tasks and the second cost is the opportunity cost for the time you miss doing the higher level, growth work, for which you are uniquely qualified.
Once you’ve come to terms with what tasks to delegate, you need to work on how to delegate without micromanaging. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
But you can’t be laissez-faire either. The happy medium of true leadership is not only explaining the task, but the the logic and reasoning behind the objective and why it is important to the business. This last piece of information is critical and one that you know inherently. It is only fair that that is shared.
Lastly, you need to be able to tolerate the occasional mistake. That’s how you learned, after all. They should of course be avoided where possible, but a coworker who is afraid to fail will just come back to you for authorization for every little move to avoid accountability.
Delegation is an integral aspect of your business’s future success and if you look at it objectively and thoughtfully, you can build the skills necessary to delegate yourself out of a job. While that might not happen, even partial success means you’ll have the freedom to give your business exactly what it needs when it needs it.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.
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