Doing it all when you own a rudimentary startup can seem glamorous and exciting. You can also jump out of a plane. But you shouldn’t jump without a parachute, and you shouldn’t lead without embracing the value of learning to delegate.
Now, you may find delegation challenging. Perhaps you have always been a practical person and cannot bear the thought of losing control of the creation process. Maybe you tried to delegate once and it ended with disastrous results. Regardless, you’re only hindering your company’s growth by trying to manage everything.
Even if you can do a particular task better than others, your time might be more valuable elsewhere. Enter strategic delegation. While you don’t want to take a knee-jerk approach and shuffle all your tasks, it’s also not ideal to just dole out a couple of easy tasks and get the day done.
To help you become a master of delegation, start with these three strategies. The first will mentally prepare you to say goodbye to some of his pending tasks. The second and third will allow you to maintain enough control, without becoming a micromanager, to be able to sleep at night.
1. Believe you can’t and shouldn’t do everything.
The idea that you are not superhuman is a tough pill to swallow, especially if you have a lone wolf style of work. Your ambitious entrepreneurial brain will reject the notion that you can’t be a hyper-productive army of one. But if you take on too much responsibility and push yourself too hard, you’ll only burn out, something 52% of professionals have already experienced, according to an Indeed survey.
How can you adjust to the reality that your business won’t collapse right away if your hands aren’t in everything? Start by dividing tasks into “A” and “B” categories. An A-level activity is best done by you or another executive, while B-level activities can be completed by others without any negative effects. Don’t forget that some tasks can be broken down into smaller parts and partially delegated.
Now, take all of your B-tier activities off your plate by delegating them to specific employees or even independent contractors. For example, you may need to speak to your most important clients on the phone every month. Do you need to schedule those appointments yourself or could someone else do it for you? Even if you spend just an hour a month texting and emailing clients to set up check-ins, that’s an hour you can spend on more A-level activities that would benefit more from your attention.
2. Develop a centralized repository of standard operating procedures.
Still feeling a bit queasy about the nation transferring responsibilities, particularly to newer, untested team members? Ask yourself this question: Would you feel more comfortable and confident if you knew that your employees were going to act exactly as you would? The answer is probably “yes”, which points to the need for improved process documents, such as standard operating procedures.
You can build as many standard operating procedures as you like for repeating or even unique procedures. For example, many human resources departments have checklists of procedures for onboarding workers. The benefit of checklists is that anyone can follow them. This maintains a high degree of consistency and standardization, which is essential for a strong new hire experience and your peace of mind. Almost anything you plan to delegate could be documented as standard procedure.
If you’re looking for inspiration to set up your standard operating procedures, know that you’re not expected to reinvent the wheel. Some software platforms have SOP creation templates. On the other hand, you can always take a more DIY approach and customize your documentation based on your learning style and that of your employees. Anything from a recorded instructional video to a step-by-step “how to” guide can be valuable. Once you have your SOPs in place, you can feel less concerned about delegating.
3. Monitor your delegated tasks with the help of technology.
Just because you delegate an activity doesn’t mean you don’t want to monitor its progress. However, you won’t get far if you ask someone to do a task and then spend all your time looking over the person’s shoulder. Not only will you waste any returns you would have earned, but you will also likely disempower your employee. Hardly a smart move, given that US employees say one of the biggest reasons they left their last jobs was that they didn’t feel trusted or valued by their managers and organizations.
The solution for this is as close as your tech stack. There are many systems that will allow you to monitor the individual and collective work of your employees. For example, project management software can let you know at a glance if something has been done on a task you delegated last week. You don’t have to bother anyone to log in to your account and, if all goes well, to have peace of mind.
That said, try not to fall into supplier overload. As Jennifer Sun, CEO of compliance software company StarCompliance, explains, too many portals can make it hard to fully understand what’s going on. In his experience, overloading your efforts “results in tremendous duplication and waste that goes against the benefits of using a vendor in the first place.” Sun suggests simplifying your technologies into a single system to avoid turning your dreams of delegation into a nightmare.
He may never win Delegator of the Year, and that’s okay. But he can teach himself the delegation skills he needs to benefit and protect himself, increase the responsibilities and skills of his employees, and safeguard the health of his company.