Are you burned out, feeling unproductive or wondering why your staff isn't getting much accomplished? It may be that you're not delegating properly.
The inability to delegate tasks is simultaneously one of the biggest mistakes and challenges that small-business owners must deal with. How do you "let go" when the buck stops with you?
Here are some tips for delegating tasks:
Identify What's Holding You Back
One of the first steps is recognizing what's actually holding you back. Is it because you feel no one can do tasks better than you? Do you lack confidence in the skill of your team or overly micromanage them? Or is it that you've always been the "go-to" person for decisions?
Be honest and ask yourself what you can do to counterbalance these reasons. Accepting that it's not feasible or even good for your business to do everything yourself is the first step to successful delegation.
Choose the Right People
The best way to develop your delegation skills is to examine your workload and the skills of your team. There should be something that you can delegate all the way down the hierarchy. This prevents burdening one person or small group.
Try to match tasks and decision-making authority to those who have the skills and are motivated to handle the responsibility and get it done right.
For example, daily, weekly or monthly routine tasks may be time-consuming for you, but could someone on your team do them better?
Be very clear in setting expectations and where your team can go for the right resources to get the job done.
If no one on your staff can handle certain tasks, consider outsourcing them to an independent contractor or virtual assistant.
One of the first steps you can take toward delegating tasks is to empower employees to make decisions. The person closest to the action, after all, is often the one who can make the most-informed decision. Giving employees decision-making power gives them a vested interest in the success of the business and boosts their sense of worth.
Since you're already struggling to delegate, start small. For example, empower employees to make customer-service decisions. Could you give a team member the authority to issue a refund or credit up to a certain amount for clear-cut customer-service issues?
Or, how about tasking them with researching your supplier relationships and coming up with recommendations to negotiate a better deal? While the final decision may rest with you, it gives you an opportunity to see what they can achieve without your intervention.
Share Your Delegation Plans
Discuss your delegation plans directly with your employees and make it a part of goal-setting and performance planning (weekly and annually). Put employee plans in writing so you can discuss progress against goals down the road. Revisit these goals often and keep looking for new tasks to delegate that fit nicely with their development goals.
Give Them Everything They Need
Give your employees all the tools, resources and learning opportunities they need to get things done. It will also show that you care about your employees' growth and are embracing delegation not just to free up your time but to grow their skills.
Stay In Control
Delegation does not mean giving up control. You can still take charge in a positive fashion. Coach employees to consider the impact of their decision on the rest of the business, the bottom line and other employees. Set guidelines, such as when they should escalate decision-making to you. And, most importantly, take time to mentor your team and give encouragement and feedback.
When You Really Need to Let Go
If you step aside from the business, whether it's for an important meeting or even a vacation, establish a communication policy before you leave. How often will you check in? Once a week, once a day? Then set expectations. Create a to-do list of projects and tasks that you'd like handled while you are away.
Review How You're Doing
Once you start delegating more, take a good look at how you're doing. Are you still micromanaging too much? Are there more tasks you could delegate? Did you let go of the reins too soon and need to re-involve yourself a bit more?
Give yourself time to get it right. Letting go is a lot like training a young puppy. The dog owner often needs as much coaching, patience and practice as the pup itself. It can take time to learn how to let go but the payoff is worth it.
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