14 April 2014

Delegating: why is it so hard to do?

Many managers and business owners find delegating hard to do. We look at how it can benefit your business and how to allocate work effectively.

As a small business owner, you’ve probably had to wear the hat of accountant, sales person, manufacturer, distributor and director. But as your business expands, you need to learn to give up some of the control and delegate tasks that don’t match your skills to others more able to do them.

However, for various reasons, many people find it hard to pass work onto others. You may:

  • think that the task is too boring
  • think that it will be too hard for others to do
  • not want to give up control
  • think you should be able to do everything or
  • believe that no one will be able to do the task as well as you can, or as quickly.

In reality, if you don’t designate work to others, it will hinder your business in the long run. It’s also inevitable that some members of your team will be better than you at certain tasks. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, and neither is acknowledging when you have too much work on your plate and the need to allocated work to your team.  

Benefits of delegation

Providing you do it right, delegating is completely different to dumping work on someone. You are assigning them work to do and giving them the responsibility of delivering it on time, which can be empowering. It also:

  • frees up your time so you can focus on the tasks that are business-critical or ones that only you can do
  • reduces your stress, making you more productive
  • gives your staff extra experience, skills or responsibilities
  • increases staff motivation and their professional knowledge
  • stimulates teamwork
  • can save your business money in the long run.

That sounds like a win-win for everyone. So how can you make sure you delegate well?

How to delegate well

  1. Decide what work you can distribute to others.
  2. Consider who you can allocate the work to. Is there a member of the team with the right skills or the ability to learn them? Will the work help them to develop new skills, give them extra responsibilities or complement other work they do? And do they have the capacity to take it on, or might you have to re-prioritise workloads?
  3. Sit down with the person you’re appointing and discuss the work with them. Explain the task clearly, and give them plenty of time to do the task, particularly if they’ll need support or training to do the work. Be clear on what responsibilities you are giving them, what outcomes you expect, when it needs to be delivered by and agree checkpoints to ensure they’re on track and are comfortable with the work.
    Many managers refer to the SMART acronym to help make sure the work is Specific, outcomes are Measurable, that you Agree the tasks, that they are Realistic and Time bound. It’s also sensible to delegate the results you want rather than a breakdown of the task. Your employee might have a way of doing the work that’s different to yours and that might not be a bad thing.
  4. Make yourself available to answer any questions they have – it might take more time to support them in the short term, but it often takes time to make time, so be patient. 
  5. Once the work has been done (or even during it) acknowledge their contribution and praise them for doing a good job.

If you don’t have staff

If you don’t have any employees but decide to start outsourcing work (or already do), you are effectively delegating work. In this case, whether it’s a freelancer or another company, you can be confident they have the skills needed, but making sure the outcomes are SMART will still help to ensure your work is done on time and is of the quality you need.

Of course, if your work is gradually increasing, now might be the time to consider hiring staff and expanding your business.

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