Take it from me, a CEO with a staff of two—no matter how few employees you have, there’s room to delegate.
If you use delegation strategically, your employees will gain needed experience and your business will be better off. Of course, not every task you delegate will be fun (someone has to answerall those emails). However, in addition to rote assignments, be sure to include some more challenging work that allows employees to stretch their capacities.
I know, I know—you don’t want to give up any aspect of your “baby.” But delegation has many benefits for a small business owner:
- It hones your leadership skills. If you don’t delegate, you’re not really the boss—you’re just an employee.
- It expands your employees’ skills, enhancing their value to your business and their job satisfaction.
- It frees up your time for long-range planning, innovation, business development, and other big-picture tasks.
- It reduces your stress so you’re more effective and productive.
Follow these steps to get started.
Step 1: Choose duties to delegate
Make a list of the duties you’d like to pass on to your team. These could include:
- Administrative tasks: Your time is too valuable to spend scheduling meetings, ordering office supplies, or booking travel arrangements.
- Tasks you’re not good at: For example, my business is a lot better off if I’m not the one managing the books.
- Tasks you hate doing: We tend to procrastinate on things we dread, which can hurt our businesses.
- Tasks your employees are interested in: Find out what skills your employees want to learn that can help your business.
Step 2: Create a delegation plan
Once you’ve identified possible tasks to delegate, talk to your employees and create a game plan. If you delegate haphazardly or just hand off busywork, your employees won’t learn from the experience—they’ll just resent you.
If you’re nervous about handing off a task, ease yourself in by delegating just part of the job. For example, suppose your work involves gathering information, writing proposals, and creating sales presentations. Delegate the research to an employee and keep writing the proposals yourself. Or do the research and writing, then put an employee in charge of “jazzing it up” in a presentation. Starting small will help you get over your fears of delegation and help your employees gain confidence as they learn by doing.
Step 3: Educate your employees
When you delegate a task, take the time to educate the employee about how the task fits into the company as a whole and why it matters. People want to feel that the work they’re doing is valuable.
You may need to create directions or process guides for certain tasks. Having written documentation of how to do things will help as your business grows. Make sure employees have the tools, information, and authority they need to do the job.
Clearly explain your expectations, deadlines, and deliverables and make sure the employee understands them.
Step 4: Stand back
It’s hard not to micromanage employees once you’ve handed off a job. Of course, some processes must be followed to the letter, but if a task offers leeway for creativity, don’t insist the person do it exactly as you would. You’ll be surprised how often an employee comes up with a way to do something faster or better—that’s one of the benefits of delegating.
Step 5: Provide feedback
Let employees know they can ask you questions at any time. Check in regularly to see how they’re handling the task and what they’ve learned.
If an employee messes up, your instinct might be to fix the work yourself or take the job back (“I knew no one could do it right!”). Instead, provide honest feedback. Helping the employee learn from their mistakes will save you time in the long run as they gain experience.
Step 6: Delegate for growth
If you trust no one else to do the difficult work, your business can’t expand beyond your capacity. Delegate increasingly more challenging tasks and watch both your employees and your business grow.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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