Many small-business owners struggle to let go of the reins when they take on their first employees. They want things done their way – they struggle to delegate, they micromanage, and they end up spending just as long as it would have taken to do it themselves. Eventually, though, when they learn to let go and start to experience the benefits of delegating, it leaves them free to do higher leveraged activities in the business.
Effective delegation is not simply giving the task to someone else. There is much more to it. When you simply hand over a task to someone else and forget about it you are abdicating. As tempting as it may be sometimes, there are many risks and consequences when you abdicate.
Ken Blanchard, who wrote the book called The One-Minute Manager has a really great description. When you delegate to someone, you give them responsibility for something, but you stay in the information loop. Abdicating is when you give somebody responsibility and then you disappear.
Abdication can lead to disastrous results.
Tasks aren’t completed properly or at all, you have unhappy customers, missed deadlines, financial problems — all of which you discover well after the fact because you abdicated those tasks…and ran!
Let me give you an example of the differences between an abdicator and a delegator.
The abdicator hires a team of people for the role or project. They don’t give them clear roles and responsibilities, but instead just says “do your job”. While the team is busy with their duties, the abdicator doesn’t monitor and check if the project is progressing the way s/he wants it to progress.
When a team member asks the manager for suggestions, the abdicating manager would simply say something like “I surround myself with people smarter than me. That’s why I hired you. So, what do you think would be best? … Then go with it.” (Sound familiar?)
Then, when something goes wrong with the operation or project (e.g., missed deadlines, etc.), the abdicator gets mad and fires the team because they weren’t doing their job.
The delegator hires a team of people for a clear set of tasks or project. S/he understands that the systems and processes need to be in place for successful service delivery: onboarding, training, operational processes, clear hand-offs, performance development goals, team meeting rhythm, etc.
The delegator understands that each of these tasks happens continuously and then tracks the progress of these. They know before something goes wrong in the operation or project and understands how to remedy them.
The delegator continues to refine the design with structure and forethought. This frees the manager from the crushing load of day-to-day issues and allows him or her to expand and scale-out.
Here’s the bottom line:
Your job as a leader and manager is to develop people. Delegation is the means by which you bring out the very best in the people that you have.
Good delegation develops your people, grooms a successor, and motivates.
On the other hand, poor delegation will cause you frustration, demotivates and confuses the other person, and fails to achieve the task or purpose itself.
So, what gets in the way, – what are the barriers to delegation?
- There are typically a bunch of reasons, why managers don’t delegate so let’s just go over a few of them.
- It could be the belief that your team cannot do the job as well as you do it.
- Or the belief that it takes less time for you to do the work than delegate the responsibility.
- It might be a lack of trust that the team can do the work at the level you need.
- Sometimes we need to make ourselves feel indispensable.
- Other times it’s rewarding, it’s your business and you enjoy doing the work yourself.
- This last one may not be that common, but it sometimes happens that people feel like everyone’s overworked, and they feel guilty about handing that work to others.
What I see very often though, is that poor delegation turns the business owner into a hub and spoke manager.
Where nothing happens in your business or your team unless somebody consults with you and every time, they have a problem or need to make a decision, you are being consulted.
And it just feels like you’re being pecked all the time, or never able to get anyone to make decisions and it’s kind of that way because you’ve trained them to think that way. That anytime they have a question or anytime they feel like they need a decision, they’re not going to take the responsibility for it because you’ve always done it in the past, in fact, you prefer it that way. Yet it’s having this negative outcome for you because if you’re not around the business is never going to work.
When you delegate tasks and responsibilities appropriately, with structure and forethought, it will free you from the crushing load of tactical work that keeps you from working on your business.
When done right, delegation is a powerful skill. But like any skill, it does take time to learn and master.