From the day you hire your very first employee, your role as a business owner or manager changes. You suddenly go from “doer” to “leader of those who do” and it’s critical that you make that transition by delegating. However, if you’re like many leaders, you may struggle to let go of things you’ve always done yourself because you’re convinced you can do it better than anybody else, right? After all, this business is your baby, your responsibility and no one else cares about it as much as you.
Unfortunately, when delegation doesn’t happen, too many leaders are left overwhelmed, too many employees are left under-empowered and too many businesses don’t reach their potential because critical tasks don’t get done. When I was asked to present several education sessions at Global Pet Expo in March, I knew delegation had to be one of my topics. If you viewed my program, this article will be a reminder of what you learned. If you didn’t, then I wanted to be sure you could learn to “Delegate Like a Boss,” because I know how much delegation benefits not only business leaders, but also their staff and the business itself.
Step 1: Identify Tasks You Can Delegate
The first step to delegating effectively is knowing what you should and shouldn’t delegate. Ask yourself, “What short- and long-term tasks or projects can I take off my plate?”, “What things are others capable of doing?” and “What things should others become capable of doing?”
More often than not, leaders only delegate simple things or things that nobody wants to do. Delegation is not just a way to shorten your to-do list. It’s an opportunity for your staff to develop new skills that will not only make them more valuable to you, but more dedicated to your business and more empowered to do what’s needed to help the business succeed. When you answer the questions above, you might have a long list of things that could be delegated to the right person. However, keep in mind that there should always remain the responsibility of the business owner or manager, such as hiring, firing, morale issues, etc.
Step 2: Clearly Convey the Outcome You Seek
Business leaders often say, “I don’t delegate because the last time I did, the person didn’t do anything right and the outcome wasn’t at all what I wanted.” My question to them is always, “What did you tell them about the outcome you expected?” When they’re asked to explain the specific, detailed outcome, many people can’t. This is one of the biggest reasons delegation fails. If you can’t clearly explain the end-result you’re looking for, then how will a delegatee be able to achieve it? For example, what do you think would happen if you asked two different staff members to write up a step-by-step plan for hosting an adoption event? My guess is each staff member might have very different ideas for the event. One might have one cat rescue coming to your business for an evening event. The other might envision renting a venue and inviting 20 rescues to bring animals for the weekend. Although you shouldn’t dictate every step or detail of a task, it’s critical to paint a clear picture of the end result so employees can figure out how to bring that picture to life. A better explanation of the outcome you seek might be telling a delegatee to plan a four hour, Saturday adoption event in June to be held indoors at your facility with one local cat rescue.
Step 3: Choose the Right Person for the Task
Choosing the right delegatee doesn’t always mean choosing the most experienced person. However, delegating a task to a less-experienced person requires planning on your part. If you only delegate when you run out of time to do something yourself, you won’t have time to provide the proper training and guidance for someone taking on a new task. In addition to looking at those who could benefit from learning a new skill, it never hurts to see if there’s someone who delegate might actually want to take on the task. It’s easier to delegate to someone who actually wants to do the task than to someone you have to convince to do it.
It is important to realize that delegating doesn’t always mean giving someone a task and letting them “run with it.” There are degrees of delegation you can choose from. A first-degree delegation might be telling someone step-by-step how to do something and then letting them do it. A third-degree delegation might be sharing the outcome you seek and asking someone to research options and get back to you so you can make a decision. A fifth-degree delegation would be giving someone a task and letting them take it from there without your further involvement. Knowing the skill and experience of the employee is critical in determining the degree of delegation you give them.
Step 4: Ensure Delegatees Have Everything Needed to be Successful
Whether it’s training, a proper budget, enough time or feedback along the way that keeps them on track, you need to provide everything possible to give the delegatee a fighting chance of success. If you don’t, you’re setting the delegatee up for failure. Additionally, it’s critical to provide a safety net, especially when a giving someone a task for the first time. A safety net could be a mentor who has done the task before and is available for on-the-job-training and guidance. Pre-planned check-ins are also an important safety net. If someone is new at something, you don’t want to find out the day before the task deadline that they’ve gone off course. Having pre-planned check-ins, such as once a week or as they complete 25, 50 and 75 percent of a task will help ensure they’re progressing in the right direction and will give you peace of mind along the way.
Finally, a critical safety net for all delegation is making it safe for people to fail. This means accepting that mistakes will happen and reassuring delegatees that you expect mistakes to occur. It also means when mistakes occur, you respond calmly and focus on what the delegatee learned and what they’ll do to avoid the mistake in the future.
Step 5: Review the Results
At the end of any delegation, take the time to review the results from your perspective and from the delegatees. What went well and what could be improved next time? What challenges arose and how did the delegatee tackle them? Be sure to also get recommendations for the future, not only for how the task could be performed more effectively, but other ideas or innovations that arose during the project.
For tasks or projects that will be repeated, be sure to have the delegatee document processes and best practices. For example, if this is the first time you’ll host an adoption event with a rescue partner, documenting the steps taken, resources needed, budget, timeline and more, is critical to the success of future events.