How to Delegate Effectively
One of the first concepts a business owner has to get to grips with when looking to scale is that of efficient use of time. As an owner, your time is a crucial business resource – it must be used as effectively as possible to drive value.
That’s also true for your team – the more paid time they spend doing tasks that they aren’t efficient at, the less value you get from them.
For a business to scale, owners must learn how to delegate effectively in order to free up their own time and focus team members’ time in the most cost-efficient manner. The stark reality is that, in all my years of working with other business owners, most of us have no clue how to delegate properly.
So, in this guide, we’re going to discuss how and why to delegate tasks. You’ll find out why delegation is so vital, how you can use tools to make it easier and how delegation is linked to a more growth-orientated mindset.
Why people don’t delegate
You might be thinking it’s easy for me to sit here and say, “delegate this, delegate that” but the idea of actually asking someone else to carry out a task that you have done yourself since day dot is probably quite daunting.
In my experience, here are some of the most common reasons people give for not delegating tasks:
- “I can’t trust anyone to do it”
- “It’ll take me ages to show you, so I will just do it myself”
- “I can’t afford to pay someone to do it” (Time is money, but more on that later…)
If any of those statements sound like you, don’t worry – your business is your baby, and it’s totally fine to feel possessive about it. However, there’s a difference between being proud and being stubborn.
As a business scales, you know you have to hand over responsibilities to other people. You can’t do it all yourself and expect to grow. You have a limited capacity, and once it’s exceeded, you’re stuck.
So, in order to get over this sentiment and begin delegating, you need to tackle the two issues at the core of these common objections – trust and time.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, finding competent people you trust to complete tasks to your own standard can be difficult. In fact, when I work with clients to grow their businesses, one of the biggest sticking points can be, “Well, I do this because I don’t trust anyone else to do it right.”
The truth is, we only have so much time in the day. If you don’t embrace delegation, then you will never be able to see the wood for the trees. Whether that’s finally hiring a bookkeeper to help with your accounts or appointing a business manager to keep things kicking over at your premises, whatever delegation looks like for you… it has to have one core component: trust.
Whilst you can never fully rule out the chance that someone lets you down or can’t do a task to your standards, you can make informed decisions that will help engender trust. Firstly, make sure that you work with someone who has demonstrable experience and competency in the tasks you need them to do. Secondly, create robust onboarding procedures to demonstrate the standards you expect.
Finally, set KPIs to measure the performance of said employee/freelancer. Once you have an agreed system for monitoring performance, you have a frame of reference to build trust. Without KPIs, performance is too subjective and personal – you might not think they’re doing the task the way you expect them to – but setting KPIs allows you to see evidence of their performance.
With these steps in place, you should find it easier to delegate tasks because you’ll have built more trust with your team. However, that still doesn’t account for the time issue.
Businesses, especially those that are relatively young, tend to be operated in a fairly chaotic way. As an owner, you probably do tasks when you need to, flitting from thing to thing to keep the plates spinning.
This sort of environment causes stasis – how can you grow if you’re too busy doing everything yourself? But when it comes time to delegate, you find yourself frustrated by how long it can take to demonstrate the task, train your team, monitor results etc.
Delegating in a time-efficient manner is all about proper planning and documentation. Carve out some time to create SOPs (standard operating procedures) that govern how a task should be performed – which will save you time in the long run since you won’t need to demonstrate it each time you delegate it to a new team member.
If you think your team needs more context to certain tasks, consider recording a walkthrough video via software like Loom. This gives your team something to reference back to whenever they get stuck and helps you prioritise your time more efficiently.
Tips on how to delegate effectively
Once you’ve laid the groundwork for trust and time efficiency via documentation and established processes, you’re ready to start delegating. But how do you actually do that? Is it as simple as telling an employee what you want, or is there more to it? Here are some tips I’ve put together to help you delegate in the best way.
- Delegate to the right person: split tasks up and delegate to people’s experiences and strengths. This relies on you knowing who is responsible for which tasks. If you’ve hired a graphic designer, don’t ask them to fix a bug on your website’s homepage – that’s a job for a developer.
- Set a clear channel for communication: both yourself and team members should stick to this channel for any communication about the tasks.
- Avoid micromanagement: once you delegate a task, don’t continually bother your team for updates. Provided you’ve set the right KPIs, you’ll be able to track progress anyway.
- Be patient and understanding: the first few times you delegate tasks, allow for failures or issues. Whilst I encourage people to hire experts or freelancers to minimise problems, even the most experienced person may trip up the first time a task is allocated to them. Use this as an opportunity to learn what went wrong, whether it was a problem with how you delegated the task, the resources you provided or a fault of the team member that can be learned from and planned for in future.
- Provide the right tools for the task: whilst you’re making other people responsible for the tasks you are delegating, it is still your responsibility to provide them with what they need to do the task. This might mean SOP documentation or video walkthroughs, or something more involved such as paid software or physical tools.
- Consider freelancers: rather than investing in employees, hiring an expert freelancer may be a better choice if you’ve got certain tasks you need done. Freelancers can be more cost-efficient than employees and you don’t have to commit to them on the same scale as a new hire.
How do you delegate tasks to your team in the digital age?
Once upon a time, tasks were mainly delegated through business meetings and in-person one-on-ones. You’d tell an employee what you wanted them to do, then allow them to report on it.
The digital age has transformed the way we can delegate – transforming even further in recent years thanks to the pandemic and remote work. Nowadays, delegating a task can be as simple as sending an email or an instant message…but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Instead of using digital tools as a way to quickly delegate with the bare minimum level of social contact, I’d recommend using them to give structure to how you delegate. Passing a task to someone can now be SO much more supportive, thanks to the digital world.
To illustrate my point, let’s roleplay a scenario…
You’re a brand new hire at a media business that has NAILED how to delegate.
Instead of being asked to do a task in a meeting, you’re allocated the task with a digital collaboration tool like Asana. The task is flagged to your user account, so you can see it clearly and can see the details and deadline associated with it.
Within the task, you can also retrieve an SOP document that shows you how to do it. Other team members can add comments to the task and you can tag them in for advice if needed, providing context without micromanaging.
When you’ve completed it, you’ll assign it back to the person responsible for delegating. They’ll check it and give feedback if needed.
As a business owner, the situation above is an ideal scenario. It’s something only made possible by establishing a better process for delegation that runs through your whole business. Tools like Asana and ClickUp are perfect for supporting this, as they give you full visibility over task allocation and control over scheduling.
I’d encourage you to take advantage of these digital tools, as otherwise, you’re reverting to direct channels such as meetings, emails or video calls, where messages can be confused, missed or simply ignored.
Are you ready to delegate?
Now that you know how to delegate, my final question is considering if you’re ready to get started. If you’ve not yet established the SOPs, documentation or support for tasks in your business, how can you expect to delegate effectively?
Sometimes, even identifying which tasks you need to build support around so you can delegate them is hard enough. Just getting your head out of the day-to-day and mapping out the right plans and processes is tough.
That’s where I can help! As a Fractional Operations Director, I can help you implement the right processes to scale your business – freeing you up from the rigours of daily management to focus on the bigger picture. If you’re interested, you can reach me via the details on my contact page.
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