The art of delegation: how small business owners can put their time to better use

10 December 2015 by Mark Williams

When the workload is piling up, and you’re confronted with a mountain of urgent tasks, delegation is the only answer.

You might find it tricky to hand over the reins – especially if you’re the founder of your business – but all good managers know that delegation is an essential skill to embrace.

Why? You might not realise it, but when you’re buried under a stack of pressing tasks, your company is at risk from (at least) two growth-inhibiting dangers:

  • Losing oversight. With too much to do, we lose our ability to step back, think and properly plan. Without the time to strategise, we make the wrong decisions, and wrong decisions can take a lasting toll on your company’s success.
  • Losing quality. Having too many jobs to do means you won’t give any of them the time they deserve. With a hectic schedule, you might not even realise that you’re cutting corners, but the fact is that the quality of your work will suffer. Bad quality work won’t impress clients or customers.

5 actions to master the art of delegation

Delegation isn’t just a necessary skill to address a busy schedule; it’s also an art that needs practice.

These five steps will help you master the art of delegation and manage your employees effectively so that they can deliver what you need and match your expectations:

  1. Decide whom to delegate to. Evaluate the members of your team, look at their outstanding skills and their past successes and decide who would be best suited to your task or is ready to take the next step in their role.If no one in your team fits the task you want to reassign, don’t forget you can always outsource. From marketing to IT management, there are lots of ongoing responsibilities and activates that a small company might not have the capacity to handle but which don’t justify taking on a new full-time member of staff. Outsourcing lets you delegate without adding to your managerial responsibilities.
  2. Give a good brief. Make sure your employees know exactly what the task requires, and remember to give examples of previous tasks where you can to demonstrate the standard you want them to strive for. Always write this brief down so that your employees can easily refer back to it (meaning you don’t have to repeat yourself) and there’s no argument between ‘what I said’ and ‘what I heard’.
  3. Communicate. When you delegate, always be open to questions. If you say you’re too busy or don’t take questions seriously you aren’t going to get the outcome you want. If you don’t know the answer, be honest, and explain that you’re delegating responsibility for finding that very answer (even if that means some trial and error on your employees part).
  4. Use technology to aid your team. Certain tools make delegation and collaboration a breeze. Project management tools like Basecamp or Asana are great systems that allow you to assign your colleagues work and keep track of who’s doing what.
  5. Exercise trust. The worst part of handing over the reins to your employees is the fear that they won’t get the job done right. As long as you give them everything they need, you should trust that they can do it. If you start micromanaging their working process, you’re defeating the whole point of delegation; you waste your time and demoralise your team.

Delegation gives you back the time and energy you need to focus on growing your business.

Assign the right tasks to the right people, give the clearest possible instructions and you’ll find that your employees have the potential to not only match your expectations, but exceed them.
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