Delegating Success

Find out why sharing your responsibilities and authority with employees is essential for business success.

By Dr. David G. Javitch

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do you need more hours in your day? Do you have so much work you're not even sure where to dig in? If so, you're like hundreds of other entrepreneurs who say they're overwhelmed with work. But why is that? Some of the most common excuses include these:

  • You're too busy to take the time to delegate or train someone else.
  • You don't have the time to explain tasks or projects.
  • You're the "best" or "only" person who can do the job right.
  • No one else is available or responsible enough.
  • If you delegate responsibility, you'll lose control over the project.

And here's the result: Projects get backed up, and you get too busy to fulfill other important responsibilities. Other people wait, sometimes without enough work to do, while important skills and challenges aren't addressed. Employees who are interested in the growth and development of their interests, skills and responsibilities go unsatisfied. And inevitably, productivity and profitability suffer.

Delegation can be your answer, especially when employees feel they're being given an opportunity to learn new skills, gain more knowledge and feel more connected to the organization. But not if they feel the boss is simply "dumping" extra or unwanted tasks on them. The simple yet most powerful key in the delegation process is to remember that delegation and added responsibilities are important tools for motivating employees. Furthermore, motivated employees are most often the most productive employees in any organization. Don't you want them in yours?

Just how do you go about handing over some of your tasks?

First, identify the best person for the job. Ironically, the best person isn't always the most experienced or the most knowledgeable. The best person is the one who's eager to learn, motivated and demonstrates the potential to assume greater responsibilities. The best way to find this person is to get out of your office and get out among your employees on a regular basis. Get to know your people. Find out what challenges them and what their interests are.

Next, clearly and logically identify the goal of the project as well as the key steps involved. Check that the employee you've selected to hand this over to understands and can implement each step. Be very careful not to ask these two useless questions: "Did you understand me?" and "Did you hear me?" The answers to these questions are almost always "yes," whether or not that response is true. Simply stated, no one wants their boss to know they didn't understand instructions lest they appear dumb or incompetent. You can ask such questions as: "What part of this process will you implement first, second, etc.?" "What part will you need additional resources for?" "What part will be most challenging or easiest for you or others?" "What part seems unclear or needs further discussion?"

Third, establish clear milestones and deadlines. Most entrepreneurs are used to "running with the ball" and doing a good job on their own. But your employees may not be as skilled as you are. Be careful to lay out some clearly understood milestones and the times and dates by which the employee will have accomplished a certain part of the task and will report back to you on their progress. In this way, you can be assured the project is being done accurately and on time. Additionally, you'll maintain overall control of the project--which is ultimately your responsibility even when you're delegating it to others.

Be sure to provide frequent feedback. Someone who's a novice needs to hear well-balanced feedback--both positive and negative--to understand how they're doing and whether they're meeting your expectations regarding the project and its timeframes. Without this feedback, employees can easily assume they're focused and headed in the right direction. But this may or may not be true, and you don't want to discover too late in the process that the employee has erred.

Finally, after the project is complete, review the process with the employee you delegated to. Taking this extra step allows all the people involved in the task to identify what they would repeat, modify or change next time around. This review process also gives you the chance to see what was learned, who learned it and whether or not you can assign increasing levels of responsibility and authority to the project manager.

David G. Javitch, Ph.D., is an organizational psychologist and president of Javitch Associates, an organizational consulting firm in Newton, Massachusetts. With more than 20 years of experience working with executives among various industries, Javitch is an internationally recognized author, keynote speaker and consultant on key management and leadership issues.

Dr. David G. Javitch

Dr. David G. Javitch is an organizational psychologist, leadership specialist, and President of Javitch Associates in Newton, Mass. Author of How to Achieve Power in Your Life, Javitch is in demand as a consultant for his skills in assessment, coaching, training and facilitating groups and retreats.

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