Many midsized companies begin with a solo entrepreneur or a very small team. At that size, each employee wears multiple hats and becomes accustomed to performing a wide range of tasks. However, as a company grows and additional people are brought on, those roles are divvied out.
However, some leaders continue to cling to certain responsibilities rather than passing them on to their team. Trying to do it all inevitably leads to frustration and burnout for both the entrepreneur and the qualified staff. To be effective, leaders must learn to routinely delegate tasks to qualified people so they can remain focused on guiding the company and ensuring there is a healthy ability to grow.
For example, imagine that you are on road trip with a group of friends and need to figure out where to stop for lunch. The driver shouldn't be the one searching for restaurants and getting directions. Doing so would take their attention off the road or require interrupting the trip to pull over. By delegating those tasks to a passenger, the driver can keep everyone moving forward.
In this article, we will discuss why many leaders find it difficult to share responsibilities and how you can overcome those challenges. Following these tips on how to delegate to your team will help you – and your company – achieve more.
Top signs that you're hoarding work
Could you benefit from rethinking your workload? If any of these signs feel familiar, you may not be delegating enough to your staff:
• Routine tasks take up a significant portion of your day. As a leader, you shouldn't spend much time on repetitive or menial activities.
• You are feeling the negative effects of stress. If you frequently experience irritability, insomnia and difficulty concentrating, you may be trying to do too much.
• Some important tasks go undone. Not having time to work toward your key objectives can be a signal that you have too many items on your to-do list.
Why leaders struggle to delegate
While entrepreneurs and other business leaders may agree that teamwork is critical to their success, many still have difficulty letting others take on more responsibility. They may have many reasons for not delegating, including:
• Believing it is easier to do the task themselves. Some people believe that they can do an activity better or faster alone. While this may be true initially, your team members' skills won't improve if they are never given the opportunity.
• Wanting the credit for the work. Almost everyone likes to feel recognized for the work they do, and some tasks receive more acknowledgment than others. However, trying to do everything alone will ultimately result in a leader – and their company – being less successful.
• Feeling that they don't have enough time to shift tasks. Remember the saying, "It takes money to make money?" That's definitely true of time. An upfront investment in identifying, training and supervising someone else will pay off in the long run.
• Being reluctant to trust someone else with the work. Leaders invest a lot of their time, effort and energy into building a business. It can be difficult to let someone else take over some of those responsibilities. While it means giving up a little control, effective leaders must learn to depend on their team.
• Enjoying doing the task. Everyone has parts of their job that they like and dislike. Sometimes the best interests of the company mean delegating a task that we love. By letting go of some responsibilities, you give your team – and yourself – room to grow.
• Not knowing how to delegate. If you have spent years focusing on checking items off your to-do list, you may not know how to identify someone else to do the work or how to train that person. People management is a valuable skill that all leaders need to learn to succeed.
Why delegating is essential
Getting support from your team benefits you, your company and your staff. Here are a few of the positive changes leaders experience when they delegate effectively:
• Take a break from the busy work. Imagine if you didn't always have something else to respond to, schedule, complete or review. Delegating helps leaders create space to breathe, think and create.
• Leaders have more time to strategize and plan. By shifting some of your day-to-day responsibilities, you have more brainpower to devote to leading your company. Moving forward requires creating opportunities to reflect and be intentional about the direction your company is heading.
• Provide new avenues to develop your team's skills and confidence. When you empower your team members to learn and grow, your company benefits from a team that is capable of conquering new challenges.
• Grow your business by incorporating new perspectives. Everyone brings their own unique background to work. Giving your team more responsibilities allows your company to leverage different skill sets and ways of working.
How to choose the right delegate
Before you can start delegating, you need to identify someone who can take on some of your responsibilities. This person could be an existing employee, a new hire, an intern or a contractor. Some tasks can even be outsourced to technology, but let’s assume your work requires a human touch. To identify the appropriate person, consider the following factors:
• Skills and experience. Many responsibilities will require that the team member has some background in that type of work. While you can – and should – train and develop your team, look for someone who can stretch their existing skill set to take on new challenges.
• Good communication skills. When taking on a new responsibility, most people will have questions. Look for someone who isn't afraid to ask for more information or admit when they don't know something. Communicating upfront can prevent unmet expectations later.
• Motivation and willingness to grow. Ideally, you should delegate to someone who will benefit from the task. Consider their interests and goals and whether this responsibility is a good fit.
Obstacles you need to overcome
Unfortunately, delegating doesn't always go smoothly. There are several reasons why an employee may not respond well to the new responsibilities. By understanding these obstacles, you can take steps to mitigate them and ensure the job gets done right the first time:
• Lack of comprehension. To complete a task correctly, your delegate needs to understand what needs to be done and why. Any gaps in their understanding will impact their ability to meet your expectations.
• Insufficient time. Delegating to someone who already has a lot on their plate or requesting an unreasonable turnaround time sets that person up for failure.
• Lack of support. Much of what we do on a daily basis requires assistance or input from other team members. If you or others on your team are unprepared or unwilling to adequately support your delegate, they are likely to struggle.
• No access to tools. The team member that you choose will need appropriate resources – whether software, equipment or information – to complete the task.
• Insufficient skills. For delegation to be successful, you need to select the right person and ensure that they have the knowledge and abilities to take on the responsibility.
• Lack of motivation. If your delegate doesn't know why the task needs to be done or why they have been asked to do it, they may not feel compelled to complete it.
How to delegate with authority
Taking on new responsibilities will require your team to grow and adapt. Similarly, you will need to shift your approach to work in order to delegate routinely and effectively. Here are some steps that you can take to help to make the transition smoother for everyone:
• Make delegation part of your management process. When you draft your employees' development plans, incorporate new responsibilities to prepare them for future roles and opportunities. Consider how they can acquire the skills they need to continue to grow.
• Shift responsibilities to someone at the right level. Your delegate needs to have the skills and authority to complete the task. On the other hand, you should be mindful to use your team effectively and avoid assigning menial tasks to someone who is overqualified for them.
• Clearly delineate the tasks. To ensure that your delegate comprehends the responsibility, outline exactly what you do, how do you it, who else is involved and why it's important.
• Provide the right materials and training. The best way to ensure that someone else knows how to do a task is to walk them through it. As a leader, you should arrange for your delegate to have access to everything they need to do the job before shifting the responsibility.
Tips to ensure successful delegation
Once you have chosen an appropriate person, trained them and handed over a responsibility, you may think that your part of the process is complete. However, there's more that you can do to make sure the task is completed successfully:
• Don't delegate too much or too fast. As you shift responsibilities, be careful not to assign too many to the same person. Avoid delegating multiple important tasks at the same time so you and your employees both have an opportunity to adjust to the transition.
• Step back, and give it time. Your delegate needs some space to figure out how to handle the work in their own way. Resist the urge to micromanage, and be patient as they learn the ropes.
• Follow up to ensure that the task has been completed. After you delegate a task, you should check in with the employee and anyone else who is involved to verify that the work is getting done. Any problems will be much easier to resolve if you can identify them early.
• Give timely, positive feedback. Everyone likes to feel recognized and appreciated. If your delegate is doing a good job, let them know. Suggestions and critiques can also be framed positively to avoid making your delegate feel defensive.
• Identify opportunities to learn from your experiences. Once you have begun to delegate routinely, evaluate the results. You may want to conduct an informal SWOT analysis to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing your team. What tasks are going well? What should you do differently in the future? How will you leverage growth opportunities and cope with upcoming challenges?
While it takes time and effort, delegating effectively will empower you to be more productive and grow your business. Your staff will gain new opportunities to develop their skills while contributing to the success of the company. Together, you can all achieve more, so ask yourself: "What can I start delegating to my team?"