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Become a Master Delegator in 7 Simple Steps As your ability to delegate improves, so will your productivity.

By Dan S. Kennedy

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In his book No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs, business coach and consultant Dan Kennedy reveals the steps behind making the most of your frantic, time-pressured days so you can turn time into money. In this edited excerpt, the author explains why you can't -- and shouldn't do it all -- and how you learn to delegate in order to move on to more important tasks.

Delegating is as hard for entrepreneurs as telling the truth is for politicians. It's downright unnatural. Why? Habit, for one thing. We create our businesses from scratch, do it all, develop a way of doing things that we believe in, and find that habit is hard to break. No one is ever going to do things exactly the same way we do them.

Jay Van Andel, cofounder of the giant Amway Corporation, impressed me many years ago with a speech titled "Delegate or Stagnate." Of course, the entire Amway system is based on multiplication of effort: one person learning a set of skills, then duplicating himself over and over again. And Jay and his partner, Rich DeVos, had a business that grew like crazy. In order to stay ahead of it, they constantly delegated and—ultimately—replaced themselves over and over again, which we'll get to in a minute. What Jay made very clear to me is that the only way to advance in any business is to keep delegating.

But there's more than one way to be right. Brendan Suhr, the assistant head coach of the Detroit Pistons during their championship years in the 1980s, once said to me: "Do you know how many head coaches there are in the NBA? Well, there are at least that many different ways to be right, because every one of these coaches does things differently, yet they all represent the top 1/10 percent of the coaching profession. There are 1,000 guys who'd like every one of these jobs. There are at least 100 guys who'd be good candidates for every one of these jobs. So these head coaches all do it "right," yet they all do it differently."

His point is valid. You cannot delegate if you believe there's only one way to get things done right.

Often, good enough is good enough. Let me give you an example. I used to have a business associate, a key person in my company, a $100,000-a-year guy whose time had to be worth more than $250 an hour. It so happened he had a fetish about how boxes were packed. When we were leaving for a weeklong series of seminars, instead of attending to any number of important responsibilities, he'd be back in the shipping department for hours, doing the job of the $10-an-hour shipping clerk. I've got to admit this guy's boxes were works of art. They were very, very carefully packed, firm to the top and the corners, so that no corner crumpled in. The tape was perfectly straight. The bottom and sides were taped just as perfectly as the top. Every label was on straight. However, in the many years since he's been gone, our shipping clerks have shipped thousands of cartons to my seminar sites. Not packed quite as well. Corners crumpled a little bit now and again. Tape crooked. Labels cockeyed. But every one of these boxes got there. The product was fine. The result was the same. Good enough is good enough.

Many, many things can be delegated to people who will not do them the way you would, won't do them as perfectly as you would, but will wind up with the same result. Every one of these things should be delegated. In fact, you must delegate. You cannot move ahead without jettisoning some responsibilities and tasks in order to make room for new, more valuable tasks and responsibilities.

And I'm not necessarily talking about creating a giant managerial bureaucracy. Today, you can delegate to independent contractors, freelancers and vendors too. Outsourcing is the buzzword of the day, with good reason. Also, if you have anybody around you with intelligence and talent, you must keep giving them new, more important responsibilities and getting them to delegate.

Mastering Delegation

You must master this difficult skill. To delegate effectively, here's the seven-step process:

1. Define what is to be done.
2. Be certain the delegatee understands what is to be done.
3. Explain why it is to be done as you are prescribing it to be done.
4. Teach how it is to be done without micro-micro-managing.
5. Be sure the delegatee understands the how-to process.
6. Set the deadline for completion or progress report.
7. Be sure you have agreement to the date or time and method.

By the way, resisting the temptation to micro-manage will require plenty of willpower. One of a number of reasons I stayed out of my business offices and worked at home as much as possible was because when I went to the office, I was "drawn" to listen in on, interfere with or critique every phone call, look at every fax, poke my nose all the way into everything—to the extent that I ruined everybody else's productivity as well as my own. Today, I'm never there. In fact, I am most often in a home office at the opposite end of the country from the office where my sole staff person does everything.

This is not rocket science. But it takes very deliberate patience. It even takes time. But investing time in getting good at this and getting people around you who respond to it is the only way to get time freed up to do more valuable things yourself.

Dan S. Kennedy

Author, Strategic Advisor, Consultant, and Business Coach

DAN S. KENNEDY is a strategic advisor, consultant, business coach, and author of the popular No B.S. book series. He directly influences more than one million business owners annually. 

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