Considering there just aren’t enough hours in the day, even an 18 hour day, you’d think that small business owners would be eager delegators. However, whether running a long-term enterprise or a start-up entrepreneur, delegating can be a hard thing for many small business owners to do.
It isn’t too difficult to understand why that might be. For one thing, this is your baby. You thought of it, you put it together, and by golly you know what needs to be done and how to get it done. Not to mention you need it done right. Or you could be uncomfortable delegating because you think if you passed a task off it would be akin to “passing the buck” and you’ve always been a “the buck stops here” kind of person. Either one of those reasons might hold true, but hiding within both there is another reason delegating can be difficult: loss of control.
A small business owner doesn’t need to be some kind of control freak to fear losing control. However, there is another way to look at it. You’re not losing control of your business when delegating, what you’re doing is managing your business. And you aren’t passing the buck either, because responsibility and oversight still rests with you.
The trick to getting more comfortable delegating without losing control is learning how to delegate effectively.
The Right Person for the Right Job
Once you’ve identified a task or project to delegate, you need to be careful to assign it to the right person. Things you need to take into consideration include the time it requires as well as who has the necessary training or skills (or who will most likely ramp up quickly.) The time factor is an important consideration because you want to delegate it to someone who has enough time left on their plate to complete it.
It may appear assigning the project to someone with the necessary training and skills in place will get you the best result. Not necessarily. For instance, depending on the time factor, you may get better results passing the task to someone who is more motivated to take the project on and spend some time training them to do it than giving it to a trained, but less motivated person.
Communication and Commitment
You may have identified who you think is the best person to delegate your task or project, but be sure not to skip meeting with that person to be sure you are on the same page. If you simply assign the task it is a rare employee who will refuse it – even when they don’t think they can do it, or resent the assignment. When you meet be sure to communicate why the project is important, the value it represents for your business, as well as the benefits to the employee who completes the task (such as higher level experience, learning new skills, increased opportunity for promotion.)
It is also imperative that milestones, deadlines, desired outcome(s) and/or results are made clear at this time. Ask for feedback from the employee to confirm they completely understand what is expected of them. Once you have confirmed their understanding, your next step is to confirm the employee you are delegating the project to is as committed to its successful completion as you are.
You’re Still in Control
Any fear you may have had regarding loss of control will quickly abate when you properly manage a delegated task. It might be off your desk, but you are still responsible to control the project in a supervisory capacity. Be sure you have scheduled time to regularly review progress as well as provide feedback and guidance throughout the term of the project.
Recognize and Reward
Throughout the course of the project be sure to recognize and reward the contribution your employee is making to your business when they meet or exceed your expectations. This recognition should be made in private and well as public settings such as staff meetings. When someone feels that their hard work does not go unnoticed and is appreciated it motivates as well as provides positive feedback that increases feelings of positive self-esteem and self-efficacy, both of which serve as hallmarks of exceptional employees.
Rewards don’t necessarily need to be financial. Recognition is a form of reward in and of itself. So is adding hours to the employee’s personal time off account. And don’t be shy about providing plaques or certificates of accomplishment and/or appreciation. Most of all, be sure to personally thank your employee for a job well done.