The key to successful delegation

I recently discussed the importance of delegation in my blog post “Why do we find delegating so difficult?” – but I thought it was important to expand on that by outlining what I feel the secrets are to successful delegation.

The biggest stumbling block, I find, to effective delegation is – you have to place your trust in someone else to complete work to your standard.

But the solution really is simple – put steps in place to ensure employees or agencies can do the job the way you want it done!

Here’s my easy three-step guide to successful delegation:

Explain the task thoroughly

No-one can undertake an assignment without a proper brief. Often, managers assume they are the only one who can undertake certain tasks because all the knowledge about how to complete it is in their head. I don’t mean to over-simplify here, but get those details out of your head and structure them on paper into a ‘how to’ guide. Go through this with the individual you are delegating to and make sure they understand what is expected of them.

Ensure robust systems and procedures are in place

To complete any task satisfactorily, you need the right tools for the job. With many administrative tasks, the right tools are the systems and procedures that underpin what you do. Make sure documents you need are easily accessible, anything that needs to be recorded has a file ready and waiting and there is an easy-to-follow process to complete the task.

Deliver tailored in-house training

Never assume a person should know how things are done in your organisation. Even if they have extensive industry knowledge and have undertaken similar tasks for other companies, you will have your own way of doing things – and this needs explaining. Even when outsourcing to an agency or service supplier, delivering job-specific training to show them how you want things done is imperative.

Follow these three steps and you are setting employees up for success. Have confidence in them and let them try.

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Why do we find delegation so difficult?

Some people appear to be masters of delegation – handing out tasks left, right and centre – but generally, in the companies I’ve worked with, I find managers can be hesitant to delegate.

Why is this such an important issue to raise? Put simply, failure to delegate is a recipe for chaos.

Tasks pile up and things start to get missed. This not only creates issues with clients, if deadlines are not met or communication channels fail, but it creates a stressful environment and puts unnecessary pressure on you as a manager.

There comes a point in a business where the number of tasks on a manager’s plate outweighs the number of hours in a day! Holding on to tasks that could be passed to another member of staff, or outsourced to a specialist agency, is one of the biggest barriers to company growth and success.

There can be a number of reasons why we find delegating so difficult, but the most common I’ve found in my experiences as a business mentor and consultant are these:

“I can’t afford to employ more staff”

In smaller firms, it’s often the case that the business owner does everything. This is often a necessity when first starting out, but as the business starts to grow, the to-do list does as well and owners get stuck in that mindset that it all has to remain with them.

As more work comes in, however, there should be increased income to match. Whilst there may not be enough just yet to take on another member of staff, there are cost-effective ways of outsourcing certain tasks that help free up your time to focus on what’s important (like getting client work completed, or sales activity to bring in even more!).

If you find yourself in this situation, think about the work you do that isn’t your forte, and cost out how much it would be to outsource to an expert. Examples might be book-keeping or marketing. These are tasks that can easily be passed to an outside agency, who will charge you an hourly rate for the work they do. Chances are, they’ll also do it much quicker than you because it’s what they’re trained in, and it may cost less than you think.

This doesn’t just free up time, it helps you play to your strengths, which will make you much happier in your job! There are always tasks we put off because we don’t enjoy them. It’s these you should consider delegating.

“No-one else can do this – I’m the only one that knows how”

Of course there may be aspects of a business that only you can do. If you’re a photographer, for example, clients are paying for you, your name, your portfolio, your proven expertise behind the camera – and it would weaken your brand to delegate or outsource to another photographer. But does that mean you can’t outsource the photo editing process, or find someone who can make sales calls on your behalf, or get a virtual PA to handle your calls and diary?

There are always tasks on your to do list that (and here’s the key), with the correct training and information, someone else could do. Not only could they do it, but they could do it very well!

Equally as well as you, in fact. I know for many this can be a difficult concept to grasp, but at some point you have to let go!

Investing a little time in training someone to fulfil a role to your specifications, ensuring consistency in the standard of work produced, will pay dividends in the long run. You can learn to place your trust in the competency of others and re-focus on what you need to do to make your business bigger, better and more profitable.

So, next time you find yourself stressing over your workload, don’t dither. Delegate!

For more practical, straight-forward advice on growing your business and becoming more profitable, take a look at Doug’s book “Getting Down to Business”.