By Phil Stella
A Connections reader recently asked for my thoughts about the art and science of delegation. Thought you’d enjoy my comments as well.
Why don’t entrepreneurs delegate?
Lots of reasons, and they all seem logical at the time:
- No one can do it better, faster, cheaper or smarter than you can. So, why bother delegating?
- It takes more time to delegate the task than to do it yourself.
- If you want it done right or right now, then do it yourself.
- No one to delegate to — you don’t have competent people or those you can trust enough.
- You don’t want to give up power or authority.
- You like doing the task — it’s fun or at least enjoyable. Makes you feel good. It makes up a little for all the things you have to do that you don’t like.
So, why should you delegate more often?
- If you spend too much time working in your businesses, you can’t be spending enough time working ON your businesses. And that’s where real innovation, growth, and improvements come from.
- If you’re doing too much, you’re too involved in the daily operations, and the business can’t survive without you. Therefore, you can’t sell it or leave it to your kids.
- Owners can’t do everything equally well. You should spend most of your time on the most important tasks of running the business, such as visioning, planning, customer relationship building, and being the face of the business. The other tasks can and should be delegated in part or in whole.
- Delegation is a great way to develop skills on your bench and give junior-level staff a change of pace and focus. And some of them will likely do the task better than you could anyway.
Best practices to make delegating work:
- Stop using the excuses in No. 1 and embrace the wisdom and reality of the reasons in No. 2.
- “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” asserted management guru Peter Drucker years ago. So, consider time a rare and value resource and measure how well you use it. Have each key manager log his or her time use in 15-minute increments over different days in different weeks. List incoming calls, texts or emails separately. Then analyze the results.
- Learn about the “urgent/important” matrix in which each task is evaluated according to how urgent and important it is. Low urgent/important tasks are potential for eliminating or delegating. High urgent/important tasks deserve more emphasis.
- You get what you ask for and model, so start small and simple by effectively delegating to your subordinate staff.
- Teach them how to do it right. If you don’t know how, hire a specialized consultant who can help you.
As you’ve seen, effective delegation is both an art and a science. Effectively done, it generates significant value for your team, your organization, and yourself. And don’t tell me it won’t work until you can tell me it didn’t work.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, which empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative. He can be reached at (440) 449-0356.