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Learning to Delegate For entrepreneurs who hate to give up control, these five tips will help you relax and learn to let others help out.

Excuses, excuses. I've heard them all.

"It's faster if I just do it myself."

"I'm afraid I'll forget to tell them somethingimportant."

"No one does it better than me."

"I don't know what to delegate."

"I can't afford to hire anyone."

"I'm too critical of other people's work."

"If I give up control over everything, things will start tofall through the cracks."

Sound familiar? You know that in order to grow your business,you need to grow your team. Yet as small-business owners,there's something in us that fights against asking for help.It's almost like there's some right of passage in beingable to "do it all" ourselves. But the reality is, youcan't do it all and focus on your strengths withoutstretching yourself in too many directions.

Delegation is about handing over authority, and for manysmall-business owners, that's a scary concept because youdon't know what will happen when you give up control. But thegood news is, delegating doesn't have to be scary-you have morecontrol than you think. Because when you've clearly definedwhat's to be done and what the outcome should be, it'sdifficult for a skilled assistant, employee or virtual assistant tobe unsuccessful. The key to controlling delegation is to establishwhat the tasks are, how they should be completed and what the finaloutcome looks like before you assign the task tosomeone.

Now, no more excuses. Here are five steps, each with specificactions you can take to develop your what, how and the finaloutcome, to get you on the road to delegating effectively.

1. Determine what to give away and what to keep. First,consider your strengths. What are you directly contributing to yourbusiness that's making it successful? Those are the things youshould continue doing. The tasks that are outside your expertise orthose that could easily be performed by others are the first thingsto delegate or give away.

One of my clients, who's in the insurance industry, foundthat she was spending a lot of her time checking in with clients.And while she really wanted to be in contact with her entire clientlist on a regular basis, she didn't want to spend unnecessarytime with clients who didn't need her immediate attention.

So she decided to delegate her client "keep in touch"calls to an assistant. Now her assistant makes each initial clientcall. If she finds the client has a question or is interested inmore information, she adds their name to her boss's follow-uplist, who then calls the people on that list when she has time totalk. Now she's only talking to those clients who really needher, but all her clients are happy because they're contacted ona regular basis.

Your Actions: Make a list of everything you do ona daily, weekly or monthly basis. Then go through the list anddetermine what's essential for you to keep doing and what canbe given away.

2.Create a plan. Consider what you need to accomplish andhow you want the task done. In order for delegation to beeffective, you have to be able to tell someone exactly what it isyou want him or her to do. Maybe "no one does it better thanyou" because no one truly understands what you want done.

So plan out what needs to be accomplished and exactly how youwant it done.

Your Actions: Create your processes. Determinewhat the final outcome should be and create the specific, detailedsteps needed to get there. Once you've hired someone to helpout, give that list of steps, along with any applicable files,forms and checklists, to the person you've hired.

3. Hire the right person. The key to finding the rightperson for the job is to determine what skill sets your positionrequires. What do you really want someone to do for you? Are theygoing to be taking care of administrative tasks? Are they focusedon marketing or sales duties? Are you looking for an analyst? Onceyou know what skills you need, search for a person who has exactlythe skills you need. Don't just hire the first person whohappens to be available.

Your Actions: Look at the tasks being performed,and decide what skill sets are needed. When interviewingcandidates, ask open-ended questions that allow you to discover ifthat person has the expertise you're looking for. Remember toask people you know and trust for referrals of potentialcandidates.

4. Assign results and accountability. One of the mostimportant steps to successful delegation is to plan ahead bydetermining what the end results should be. Picture what you wantto be holding when those final deliverables are handed to you. Thencommunicate those expectations. And remember, all expectations haveto be reasonable, clear and measurable. For example, you may wantto require that someone "complete a minimum of 30 sales callper week" as opposed to just "complete salescalls."

Accountability is not a bad word-there have to consequences ifthe results you need are not being met. Because if the quotas,goals or results you need aren't being achieved, it's youand your business that will suffer.

Your Actions: Create specific goals, quotas oroutcomes that need to be accomplished by the person you'redelegating work to. Effectively communicate those expectations, andcreate consequences if the results you expect aren't beingaccomplished.

5. Check in from time to time. "Set it and forgetit." Some people think that rule applies to tasks that havebeen delegated. I hate to burst your bubble, but people are human.They make mistakes, they accidentally skip over things-they mayeven drop the ball.

Instead of leaving them alone once you've assigned some workto them, establish specific times you'll check in with them tosee how they're doing. You can set a regular appointment time,such as Tuesdays at 2 p.m., when you'll sit for 15 minutes toan hour and review regular duties, project milestones and answerquestions. Or you might select a specific point in the projectwhere you'll review their progress. For example, you might say,"After you've called all 50 prospects, come see me so wecan discuss the feedback you've been getting fromthem."

Checking in with your employees allows you to stay in the loop,fix problems as they arise, and educate and develop the peopleworking with you. And setting specific times allow you the freedomto focus on other things the rest of the time.

Your Actions: Establish a check-in schedule thatworks for both you and your employee. And then be sure to touchbase when you say you will.

Beth Schneider, president of Process Prodigy, helps businessowners leverage the best business practices to help them build athriving business. Beth is also co-author of Inspiration toRealization. To contact her, call (888) 584-5452 or e-mail herat .

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