January 23, 2017

The delegating conundrum

By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

At our last Peer to Peer Network session, we had over 30 business owners working shoulder to shoulder on identifying challenges with, and focusing on improving the ways in which they delegate. I thought it would be helpful to recap what those business owners learned and share these tips and steps with all of you. By this time in the season you’re getting a little tired of endless To Do lists.

By nature, most entrepreneurs love to keep control. That way, we can make sure things are done right the first time. It can be a scary thought to let go and allow someone else to take over a task or duty we've been doing for a while.

Here are some questions you might find yourself answering to convince yourself NOT to delegate tasks to your team:
• What if they don't do it correctly? (I’m just going to have to do it all over myself).
• What if the outcome is not up to my standards? (It would just be faster if I do it myself).
• What if they don't do it the way I've been doing it? (I’ve figured out the best way to do everything profitably).
• What if I become less essential to the business? (And end up not being THE ‘go to’ person).
• What if they do it better than me?
(And my way was actually costing more).

Giving up control is often (wrongly) equated with giving up leadership as well. Leadership however, has much, much more to do with responsibility than it has to do with authority or control. Delegating means taking true responsibility and inevitably, it means giving up some control. How can you change your mindset and become a better delegator? Here is a checklist I have developed to help you get there.

Purposeful delegating
With the end result being that the boss no longer has to babysit a process/people in order to free up mind space and time to focus on their own work.
• Define the goal: Clearly articulate the desired outcome. Begin with the end in mind.
• Determine gaps: Define what is currently working and what needs to change or be added in order to accomplish the goal.
• Create the strategy: Outline the resources available (including you and how often) that will be available to accomplish the goal (including time).
• Assign the lead person: Determine who has suitable knowledge and skills, potential attitude to succeed and available time to take the initiative on.
• Develop the communication plan: Introduce and train the process, allow for questions, include sign-offs, include an implementation monitoring plan and be prepared to respond to road blocks and improvements.
• Commit to support success: Make sure you are clear on constraints and boundaries. Does the lead: wait to be told what to do? Ask what to do? Recommend what to do, then act? Act then report results immediately? Initiate action and report periodically? Etc.
• Clarify the lead indicators: i.e. When this change is working, we will see this… We will experience this... We will hear this... Our budget will be this...
• Set the metrics: Determine what measurement will confirm your people have succeeded in achieving the goal and by when. Celebrate success.
• Pay attention to the end result: Nothing is more frustrating than working hard on a project, only to have the boss ignore the detail and results of your hard work. Plan to engage fully with the results of their efforts.

The best way to get started with delegating is to get started. Start small and work your way up to deeper tasks and more challenges. Make sure you are clear, intentional, and focus on the successful outcome for both you, and the person to whom you delegate tasks or responsibility. It takes practice and a few simple steps to follow in order to get it right. With practice, it becomes routine, and managers/owners will enjoy more time to focus on maximizing their own job performance as well as seeing new potential in staff to whom they properly delegate new tasks or projects.