How delegating can free up your time and improve your business

By Max Berry

No small business owner can do it all. The idea of absolute control may be appealing, but a little delegation is necessary if you don't want to spread yourself too thin. While training an employee to perform a task you already know how to do may feel like a waste of time, the short term investment you put into teaching someone else will pay dividends.

"Many business owners are micro-managers," says Greg Smith, President and CEO of Georgia based corporate training firm Chart Your Course International. "We figure that we built it, so we're the genesis of everything a company does." While it is natural for an ambitious entrepreneur to feel that way, a successful entrepreneur simply doesn't have the time to do everything at once. So take some pressure off yourself by delegating the tasks that aren't cost effective for you to carry out, as well as those that simply aren't in your wheelhouse. This will spare you the stress of working on something that isn't suited to your skill set and free up the time to focus on tasks that are. You can still edit and fine tune your employees' work, ensuring it is of the standard you require, without giving short shrift to more managerial duties.



Banish Boredom
Some smart delegation will also save you from the perils of under utilizing your staff. Any employee, no matter how talented, will perform beneath their potential if he or she is bored. To prevent this, Smith recommends creating a personal delegation plan for each member of your staff. "Delegate to someone who has the capability, interest, and potential to complete a particular task," he advises. Pay close attention to the individual talents of your staff and assign jobs accordingly. Ask every employee you hire what their ambitions are and what kind of work they'd be most excited about doing. If you know this before you start delegating, you can ensure that each employee takes on a task they'll be excited about making their own. But be careful not to pigeonhole anybody. "You want to know what someone's capabilities are," says Smith, "but you also want to broaden horizons. Challenge your employees somewhat. Let them grow."


To this end, you should explain a task's objective and outline the desired results, but don't micro-manage. If an employee doesn't feel like their work is their own, he or she won't be inclined to take pride in doing it well. On the other hand, if you aren't specific enough about the way something should be done, the work you get back may be incompatible with company standards; be very specific about what an employee should achieve with a given task, but trust them enough to let them achieve it their way.



Delegation = Professional Development
Ask as much as you tell. Once you've given instructions, make sure you give your employees the chance to tell you if they need any additional resources or information to get started. Also be sure to hand over responsibility for an entire task, not just a portion of it. It is much easier to involve someone with a complete job than with one piece of a greater whole. This kind of absolute responsibility will give your employees the opportunity to grow professionally, which Greg Smith identifies as a chief benefit to delegation. "Delegation should be seen as professional development," he says, "not just the opportunity to take something off your own plate. Delegating gives people a sense of purpose. It makes them feel like they're not just working a job, but building a career. And it gives them more interest in staying." This last point demonstrates how delegation can work as a kind of insurance policy for the future of a business. "Often times a crisis occurs," says Smith. "Someone dies or retires, and people in the company aren't ready to step up." Using delegation as a means to train your employees, to build their knowledge little by little, means there will always be someone ready to step up.



Reward Good Work
Once you've delegated a task, ask for regular progress reports to monitor how the work is coming along. You should also develop a plan in advance to thank and reward your employees once a task is completed. Rewarding good work, as well as conducting a thorough analysis of how the job was carried out, will make your employees feel more like they had a tangible effect on the course of the company.

Letting your employees have that kind of effect may be the best training of all. "We get locked into the idea that education makes someone capable," says Smith. "That is not always the case." While it is true that there is no education like real life education, there are still some jobs you simply can't delegate. Specific tasks can be assigned to your employees but the major practices affecting how a business functions-setting office policies and standards, conducting performance reviews, hiring and firing need to be handled by the leader. Likewise for the final approval of any product or practice that bears your company's name. As Smith says, "When delegating, you are giving your employees responsibility, but not all the authority


Max Berry is an associate writer/editor for Priority magazine, whose work has also been featured in Business Minds and Favors magazine.

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