The ability and willingness to delegate is as crucial to business owners as planning, selling and prioritisation skills. Without it, the business will always remain in the realm of the freelancer – small, stagnant and wholly dependent on one person. Business owners can hone their delegation skills by following these nine tips:
- Build trust
The single biggest stumbling block to better delegating is fear that employees may botch the job, damage something, waste raw material, offend a client, expose the business’s weaknesses, or simply be more hassle. Although to a limited extent it is a healthy fear, it can also very quickly become debilitating.
The antidote is to build trust, with the emphasis on “build” - a process that requires time, careful thought and good people management.
- Start simply
It is advisable to start with small, routine tasks such as compliance paperwork and book-keeping which can be delegated to a general assistant. This can be an excellent way to start practicing your delegation skills in order to free up time to attend to the core business of your enterprise.
- Provide clear instructions, goals and expected outcomes
Delegating can only be effective if employees understand the task at hand. Therefore, when necessary it is key to provide them with a precise set of instructions. In other situations, it may be better for employees to improvise solutions and take initiative to adapt the way they do things as circumstances change. In these cases, they only need to have to understand the broader outcomes required. As such, it is crucial to invest time and effort to communicating instructions and desired outcomes clearly.
- Invite questions
If employees are too shy or intimidated to ask questions, misunderstandings will sooner or later arise. Create an atmosphere in the business that encourages questions and discussions, even if the emphasis remains on getting on with the job. Don’t ever dismiss their questions as stupid or a waste of time as this might impact how they carry out their delegated task.
Feedback to employees should be constant, clear and sincere. The consistency and improvement of the work done in your business is only possible if you follow up on the tasks you delegated with proper feedback – negative as well as positive. Critiquing someone’s work is a sensitive undertaking, but it can be done in a way which motivates and encourages improvement. Praise for work well done is a great motivator, but be careful of diluting its potency through overuse or insincerity.
- Beware of micro management
Find a balance between giving employees the space to get on with their tasks, and keeping an eye on what they are doing. When dealing with school-leavers in their first job, it can be best to err on the side of too much supervision, while experienced employees will find a constant peering over their shoulder irritating and demotivating.
- Employ people with the right attitude
Delegating is easier when you work with enthusiastic team players who are self-motivated and eager to learn. It is therefore important to try to employ employees with the right attitude, especially in owner-managed businesses where on-the-job training is the order of the day.
- Seek advice and mentorship
Good delegating requires a broad range of skills and knowledge, from team building to planning, to knowing the labour laws. Learning all of this through trial-and-error may well turn out to be more expensive than seeking out advice, mentorship, books on the subject or even formal training.
- Know yourself
As an entrepreneur, one may be emotionally attached to the business and resist the idea of handing over to employees. However, an inability to trust may cause a major bottleneck in the business when you insist on signing off everything. Self-reflection, perhaps with the help of a coach or a mentor, can only help to make you a better delegator.
Vincent Kiyingi is the Country Manager at Business Partners International