Small business owners often find themselves taking on every task in their company.
If a task or strategy is in their business plan, they try to do it by themselves.
But, as a business grows, this hands-on approach becomes harder to maintain.
A business’s ability to evolve depends on its leader’s ability to let go of that death grip on everything and learn to delegate without micromanaging.
But, although hoarding tasks can be exhausting and detrimental to business, it’s still a hard habit to break.
In fact, this difficulty in letting go of tasks is commonplace. As Jesse Sostrin – leadership expert and entrepreneur – explains:
One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading.
But, it’s an important transition that all successful business owners must make.
Here’s why delegating is so crucial to your business’s good health and how you can grow your business by delegating effectively.
Prevent professional burnout
Burnout is a serious threat to your well-being and the success of your business. Trying to do too much can definitely lead to burnout.
Burnout occurs when chronic stress wears down your mental, emotional and physical reserves. It’s similar to driving your car till it runs out of gas.
Your car is far less productive with no gas. And so are you.
As we explained previously:
Burnout can leave you feeling defeated, trapped, detached and unmotivated. It’s no small wonder then, that the phenomenon negatively impacts work performance as well. Procrastination, tardiness, and avoidance of responsibilities are all linked with on-the-job burnout. It can even affect you physically, leading to constant feelings of fatigue, loss of appetite, and frequent illness.
Those afflicted may suffer silently, but burnout isn’t just a personal issue; it directly impacts your business. The American Institute of Stress estimates that stress costs US Industry roughly $300 billion annually as a result of reduced productivity, missed work, and employee turnover and related training costs, among other factors.
You have a finite amount of mental, emotional, and physical resources. And, while we like to believe that we can do anything and everything, the truth is that you can’t.
As a leader, you have to make smart use of the resources that you have. Your valuable energy and time must be focused on working on your business rather than in it.
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Your business is only as strong as your team
Your business’s future success relies on the talent of the people you hire and their ability to grow.
Your employees cannot grow if they are not allowed to take on a wider range of tasks and more responsibility.
If your employees can’t grow, neither can your business.
Jesse Sostrin explains this phenomenon beautifully for the Harvard Business Review:
…the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands will eventually catch up to you, and at that point how you involve others sets the ceiling of your leadership impact. The upper limit of what’s possible will increase only with each collaborator you empower to contribute their best work to your shared priorities. Likewise, your power decreases with every initiative you unnecessarily hold on to.
Your employees will become more reliable, more skilled, and more valuable the more tasks they can do. And, they can only gain new skills if you trust them to take on new tasks.
Restricting your employee’s growth restricts your business’s growth. On the other hand, delegating and mentoring your team can lead to limitless growth.
As we wrote in our guide on how to start a business:
Build a strong, well-rounded team to create a stable foundation for your business.
With all of that in mind, where should you start?
You may want your first hire to be a part-time assistant. Look for someone who is a jack-of-all-trades, eager to learn new skills, with a strong work ethic. You’ll sleep better if you have someone in the trenches with you that you can rely on.
If you’re new to marketing, a marketer can help you strategize your business.
If you’re not confident with the manufacturing process, hire a manufacturing liaison. If you’re finding it a challenge to keep up with orders, a fulfillment manager might be just what you need.
Ensure your business’s ability to function without you
We all like to think that we’re infallible.
The daunting fact that injury or illness could strike at any moment could seriously derail our peace of mind if we let it. So, we don’t think about it.
But, if you were out of commission for a while, would your business continue to thrive in your absence? Or would it collapse like a house of cards?
Failure to delegate is not just a failure to share tasks in the present. It’s also a failure to invest in your business’s ability to function in the future.
Delegating tasks and important responsibilities to your employees means that they will have the ability to keep the business running if you can’t be there. It means that you won’t have to be shackled to your business as the sole voice of direction and forward momentum. It means you can take a vacation and not have to worry that things are imploding at work.
And that’s not all. As executive coach Jack Craven explains:
Leaders often feel they can carry the whole company on their back…. You are a fix-it person and have the best of intentions. And it feels good. But the result is that your most important decisions and actions get delayed because you are too busy putting out fires.
Delegating wisely also means that you aren’t holding anyone back at work, either. When you’re not fussing over every little thing, your time is freed up to focus on the pivotal tasks and decisions that your team is waiting for you to complete so that they can move forward.
How to incorporate delegation into your leadership process:
1. Choose the right tasks
Delegate tasks that you don’t need to do.
There are crucial responsibilities that you best handle. What are they? Anything else should go to your support staff.
And be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Tasks that you’re just not good at should be handled by someone else.
This is important in a wide range of businesses. For example, in our guide on starting a real estate business, we discuss the benefits and disadvantages of joining franchise brokerages versus boutique brokerages. Both give you some important benefits, including back-office staff who can handle many of the tasks that would quickly overwhelm a solo real estate broker.
2. Choose the right employees
Choosing the right employees to assign tasks will be key to your success.
Before delegating a task to an employee, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the employee have the time/capacity to take on more work?
- Is the employee skilled enough to perform the task well?
- Does the employee show the potential to learn to perform the task well?
Some people aren’t great with numbers. Those aren’t the employees you should assign billing duties to.
Use your common sense and knowledge of your employees’ strengths, and you’ll delegate more effectively.
And remember that delegation doesn’t mean the employee has to perform the task directly.
For example, small businesses and startups always need help with branding and design. But few entrepreneurs and small business owners can create professional designs for their own company. They’re typically too busy running their businesses and solving dozens of other problems.
And a small business will rarely employ an experienced designer or even a marketer who is competent with design and who can expertly craft a strong brand identity for the business.
You can ask one of your trusted employees to leverage the crowd to get help. Over the past decade, crowdspring has helped tens of thousands of the world’s best entrepreneurs, small businesses, agencies, and non-profits with everything from professional logo design to product design, packaging design, and even unique and memorable business names. You can get a finished design in as little as one day. Custom design and naming projects on crowdspring start at $299 (including all fees), and there’s a 100% money-back guarantee.
Outsourcing problems to others on your team or companies like crowdspring will help you create flow and substantially improve your work productivity.
3. Bake it in
Every extra decision you have to make is an extra drain on your resources. Decision fatigue is a genuine threat. So, make it easy to delegate by creating your delegation plan ahead of time.
As the Harvard Business Review’s Amy Gallo points out,
Delegation shouldn’t be yet another task. Make it part of your process for creating staff development plans. Discuss which types of projects and tasks you will pass on to them so that they can build the skills they need.
Deciding how you will delegate tasks ahead of time saves you from having to decide how each task will be assigned over and over again as they come up.
4. Document company knowledge
Create task manuals and information guides that equip staff members to take on new tasks.
Is that an investment of your time? Yes. But, it will pay off every time an employee reads that manual rather than coming to you with their questions.
If you are the sole source of truth for all company knowledge, others will be unable to function without draining your time.
Now, some high-level questions will always come to you. But, you can save time and delegate more effectively by documenting lower-level knowledge in guides that will continue to perform long after you’ve moved on to more important things.
Work on your business instead of in it
Ray Silverstein – entrepreneur, small business expert, and executive leadership coach – once said:
…delegation is never abdication. Rather, it’s learning to work on the business instead of in the business. Good leaders know when to get out of their own way.
Follow the suggestions above. Get out of your own way. Become a better leader.
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