9 Keys to Delegating Successfully
Smart entrepreneurs learn quickly that they can't do everything on their own. Learn how to delegate more effectively with these tips.
By Sam Warner
For any entrepreneur, particularly when you are starting a new business, there is a danger of trying to do everything yourself. If you like to keep the world under control you may need to improve your delegation skills.
Delegation provides opportunities for people to feel empowered, supported and encouraged. It gives entrepreneurs a chance to reduce stress by spreading the work and sharing responsibilities amongst the team.
Here are my tips for improving delegation and gaining the benefits as your business grows:
1. Get to know your team.
If you have a new team – don't go in like a bull in a china shop. Get to know your team, understand their ways of working, rules of engagement, foibles, and preferred styles of communication and you'll be able to appreciate their world as it stands - before you add to it. Really get to grips with their deliverables and their concerns and challenges. These small steps can pay off over time.
2. Share the vision.
Be really clear about your vision and mission and share it with your team. If they understand the direction the team is going in, and the objectives that need to be achieved they will start to think about how they can contribute.
3. Ask for help.
A good saying is that "your success is only achieved through theirs" – and you have to mean it and let your team know this is how you operate. There's no room for insecurity or game playing if you want to be an effective leader who delegates easily. If they can see your vulnerable side, where you are not perfect, where you make mistakes and don't have all the answers, they will know that you value consulting with them and leveraging their knowledge and experience when solving problems. Ultimately, they will feel respected and valued.
4. Share and develop skills.
By ensuring that you have no silos (individuals with special skill sets that are potential single-point-of-failures if absent), delegating tasks across the team will upskill them and ensure that no-one, when they return from holiday or other absence, is faced with a pile of work – as it will have3 been absorbed by the team. This can create a harmonious team working environment where everyone has each other's back. With this mindset people should be ready to take on other initiatives to help.
5. Give useful feedback.
If you can't give great feedback that is useful and useable then it will become very challenging for you to delegate a second time. You need to give them specific examples of where things went well and why that was great.
If things didn't go so well, help them articulate how they might mitigate that in the future so that the issues melt away. Reward them, in a meaningful way, for their efforts.
6. Encourage ideas.
You can build a culture of problem solving by being genuinely approachable and easy to work with. If you don't want people to bring you problems to solve – ask your team to bring you solutions and ideas instead. They will likely feel empowered to try to figure out how to fix things before approaching you for approval to go ahead; thereby discouraging whinging and moaning about problems which they then expect you to solve.
If a team member comes up with a good idea ask them to lead on it, with you as a consultant (so they don't feel vulnerable). This raises their profile, makes them feel respected and gives them a specific deliverable.
7. Be specific and say 'why' before 'how.'
Humans are not robots - they need to understand why a task has to be done to understand the value they are delivering. Only then will they be able to absorb the policy, process and procedures.
When delivering instructions for a task – start with the end in mind and be specific about the desired end result. Clearly outline the lines of accountability, responsibility and authority. Be extra clear on touch points/milestones and deadlines – get them diarised. Organise a review once the work has ended so you can give feedback. Don't be tempted to focus on how they got there - focus on the results achieved.
8. Play to their strengths.
Getting to know your team will help you to build mutual rapport, trust and respect. Its these things that help you decide whom to delegate to as you'll know if they are able to cope with the work, or if it's too much of a stretch. Take time to get to know how they like to be rewarded and why they come to work every day – then you will understand what words to choose when you are being persuasive and encouraging to them. It's important to get to know your employees' limitations so that you can push them a little but not drown them.
9. Improve self-awareness.
As an entrepreneur, its important to understand your impact on others. It will improve your ability to delegate effectively and your listening skills. Listening is the most useful skill you can cultivate. It validates the person speaking and makes them feel heard. It allows you to be a safe sounding board for the team. Ask for feedback from your team (it's not a one-way street) and respond to that feedback if you can so they know you are paying attention and adapting.
As an entrepreneur your role is to lead the team as you build the business. You can't do everything so learning about your team and delegating can help you avoid burn-out and become successful more quickly.