After writing his 10,000th line of code, without any help from junior programmers, an MIT-educated computer scientist begins to make errors that could jeopardize his successful network design business.
The head of a graphic design firm squanders hours every week developing her own photographs and running layouts to the printer instead of training her assistant to handle these tasks.
Do you have any work tendencies similar to those of these three business owners?* Are you so involved in all aspects of your company’s operations that you alternate mundane tasks such as data entry, bookkeeping and supply ordering with strategic decision making and partnership development? Do you believe that delegating tasks and projects to your staff is not possible because they don’t share your vision, you don’t have the time and/or money to train them properly, or your work is too specialized? If so, you may be jeopardizing your company’s growth, employee and customer relationships, and your emotional and physical well-being.
The alternative is learning how to delegate, which may include making changes to your business model. Examples of effective delegation techniques include: hiring new staff and/or taking the time to train current staff; using delegation as an employee motivation tool; and retaining consultants for periodic tasks, such as publicity, tax auditing and website design. Depending on your industry, you can also delegate any of the following business operations: booking speaking opportunities, developing a blog, designing PowerPoint presentations, handling event logistics, monitoring industry news, conducting competitive research, maintaining a database of potential customers, updating website content, and writing press releases.
For some small business owners, this may require psychological shifts as well. If you founded your company, you may have to lose the nostalgia for the early days when you handled everything from writing the business plan, seeking investors, building relationships with local community leaders, and handling administrative duties. You may have to learn to let go of day-to-day tasks and relinquish some control.
Once you’ve decided to delegate more work, answering the following questions should prove helpful:
Should this be handled in-house or outsourced? Outsourcing to a specialist may be better for skill-specific tasks that have a finite beginning, middle and end. Using in-house staff is better suited for work that requires flexibility, last-minute responses and regular feedback from you.
Should tasks or projects be delegated? If you are just looking to offload administrative tasks, it’s fine to delegate to junior staff because they probably will not need much training or supervision. On the other hand, if you want to develop employees’ skill sets, and encourage employees to work as a collaborate team, delegating full projects is probably preferable.
How often should there be check-ins with employees? If you foster autonomy in the employees to whom you delegate work, you should focus on whether goals are being met, not on the process. Weekly meetings should be sufficient to ensure projects are on track and to provide additional resources if needed.
Which is more desirable - “Yes” men/women or independent-minded employees? Once you allow staff members to give input to business strategy, you probably will not prefer employees who agree to everything you propose. You should empower staff to ask questions, work independently and make their own decisions.
Once you start delegating more often, you will be able to focus on more important matters, such as refining your vision for the company’s future and areas that could be strengthened internally. When employees are given the opportunity to take on more responsibility, you’ll gain fresh insight and perspective, which could strength the organization’s quality of work. They may also improve efficiency. In addition to the professional benefits of delegating, from a personal standpoint, you’ll be able to enjoy the
pleasures in life that having your own business permits.
*Please note that these examples are hypothetical, building on some real-world scenarios the SBOC community has observed.
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