Glenn Polyn//February 1, 2023//
Glenn Polyn //February 1, 2023//
Past articles in Pet Age have covered tips on how to delegate effectively, but they didn’t address the issue that keeps people from taking the first step toward delegation — fear. As a business owner or business leader, it can be hard to let go of responsibilities and put them in the hands of others. When we feel this way, we try to do it all ourselves and likely get mixed results. So how do you get over the fear of delegation? The first step is identifying what you’re afraid of.
The most common fear I hear from people is that others can’t perform as well as they can. The bottom line is, they may be right. There may be no one who can do the delegated task as well as an owner whose business is on the line. However, sometimes it may not matter. Although we often think that everything must be done 100 percent with an A-plus effort, the fact is that 80 percent and a B effort might be good enough to get some tasks done. Additionally, what if someone could get the job done better, faster and more efficiently than you can? You’ll never know unless you give them a try. Therefore, it’s so important when you delegate that you don’t prescribe exactly how to complete the project, but instead share the outcome you seek and the deadline you have for the completed project. If you’re worried about whether an employee is up to the task, then set check-in points to ensure the project is proceeding appropriately.
Another common fear I hear from leaders is that they don’t want to overburden their employees by adding additional tasks to their existing list of responsibilities. This is something to take into consideration, but it begs the question, “Do you have a good handle on what their current level of burden really is?” You may find that you have employees on your team who don’t have enough to do. Great employees like to be busy so that their day goes by swiftly. A new task or responsibility might be a welcome change. You might also find there are employees on your team who are feeling bored with routine tasks and are looking for the opportunity to do something new and different. Not only would delegating to such a person take responsibilities off your plate, but it can also help increase their job satisfaction and the likelihood they’ll stay with your organization. Great employees won’t stay in a boring job, only marginal employees generally do. Finally, realize that learning new tasks or new areas of the business is a benefit to your employees. It makes them more well-rounded and marketable. In addition, it allows you to avoid becoming what I refer to as the “single point failure,” meaning if you’re not there, that task can’t be done, and business comes to a halt.
Time is another excuse people give for not delegating. They’re afraid that the process of delegating will take longer than if they just do the task themselves. This is another fear that could be legitimate depending on the situation. If you’re delegating a task to an employee who has no experience doing such a task, then it is likely that you’re going to have to spend more time upfront helping them get started. However, if it’s a task that will be repeated, such as monthly inventory checks, then the time is well spent by making the effort to teach an employee as you save time every month after that because you don’t have to do inventory yourself. Spending two hours teaching someone a task, when it saves hours over the rest of the year, seems like a good investment.
Another common fear stems from having a small team, where it’s difficult to find time in the day for you to have them complete a task. What do you do then? You delegate outside the team by outsourcing the work. Of course, this is going to cost you extra money. However, when you do your research, you might find that delegating a task for a set fee is worth the time you’ll save in your day doing the task yourself. It might also turn out to be cheaper than having an inexperienced employee work overtime doing an unfamiliar task, when an expert outsider could do the task in half the time with a better outcome. This is why I outsource much of my marketing for my business. I could do the tasks myself. I have the skills and abilities and in fact, so does my assistant. However, I know for a fact that an expert in marketing can do a better job in a shorter amount of time. By delegating the task to them, I can focus on what I really need to focus on as a business owner. The same goes for my animal rescue. I could take two hours every morning and clean the cat building myself. However, my time is better spent on the business of running the rescue, so I hire someone to do the cleaning.
Finally, there’s one fear that many people have that they don’t generally like to admit and that’s the fear of being replaced or creating your own competition. Business owners sometimes fear delegating too many key responsibilities pertaining to running the business because they’re afraid an employee might learn too much and then open their own competing business. I’ve also seen managers avoid delegating because they’re afraid they’ll be let go when the boss realizes an employee who is paid less can do the same job. Oftentimes these fears are the ones that people aren’t consciously aware of, but they’re sometimes the biggest fears of all when it comes to delegating. I’ll be the first to say that although I think these fears are very unlikely to come true, I won’t say they could never happen. The risk of them happening is far outweighed by removing tasks from your plate that others can do for you. When you do, not only are you growing your people so they’re more committed and loyal to your business, but you’re also freeing yourself up to do the things that leaders should be doing, such as forward planning, strategizing the growth of the business, and more. When you have the time to do these things, you not only help improve your business, but you also help you and your business grow so far ahead of the competition that’s mired down in everyday tasks, that you’ll become competition proof.
The bottom line is, successful delegation is a key to success and growth in any business and if you’re not doing it now, it’s time to start. Start slowly, pick the right person for the job, and create check in points so that no one’s caught off guard when the deadline for the project or task is due. For additional delegation success tips, go back and check out my Pet Age column from May 2021 and you’ll be on your way to successfully delegating in no time.
Amy P. Castro, MA, is a business, leadership and communication expert, author and speaker who helps pet industry professionals grow their loyal customer base by building a “Best in Show” team that can deliver a 5-Star Customer Experience.