Delegation is a challenge for all small business owners. Without delegation, we run the risk of preventing growth in our businesses.
“I can do it faster myself than I can explain it.” Have you said that? If a task is something you will ever have to do again, that statement is inaccurate. Getting something off your plate, especially if it’s something that you don’t like to do, is a big win for all small business owners.
Here’s an example. A while back, Beyond the Chaos switched from Highrise to HubSpot for our CRM. We imported our contacts into HubSpot, but not everything was transferred cleanly. Plus, there were all these notes and history surrounding the contacts in the previous system. Susan swore she would take care of it herself because there were things she knew about the contacts that no one else did.
Well, a few months later, it still wasn’t done. We flipped between two systems because of not delegating! So Susan assigned that task to one of the detail-oriented people on the team, and it was completed in a couple of weeks.
The Benefits of Delegation
What do you gain by delegating? First, freedom! The meticulous and time-consuming tasks are off your list. Sure, now you have to pay someone to do it. But, think of everything you can do instead of a task you probably don’t need to do in the first place. Now you can work on marketing, clients, writing, and planning. You can engage in money-making activities!
Second, delegation gives you time savings. If you’re a detail-oriented person with perfectionist tendencies, you may dwell on parts of a task that don’t matter. For example, you may reformat every phone number to (555) 867-5309 instead of 555-867-5309. Who has time for that when we all know we’re calling Jenny, regardless of the format? That type of thing isn’t important, but you can feel obligated – almost addicted – to perfect your data. Whereas, an assistant wouldn’t have the personal attachment to those types of details and can be directed to do it differently.
Third, delegation creates efficiency. Using the example of changing CRMs, before we transferred the data, we had to switch between the two systems while talking to someone to see what was previously discussed. That isn’t efficient. Worse, what if we didn’t look because we were in a hurry and forgot or missed something that caused a miscommunication? Loss of effectiveness, productivity, and efficiency is not something you can afford to tolerate in your business.
Fourth, delegation helps you move forward. Beyond the Chaos has a process for updating our CRM at the end of every month. This task has been delegated for many years. But, while in the middle of two different CRMs, it wasn’t being done. Plus, it really couldn’t be done until the clean-up was complete. So, the details weren’t updated properly, possibly causing urgent work in the future (when we need information that isn’t there) or a mistake.
Tips for Delegation
1. Create a list of what to give away.
When Susan started this business, she created a list of tasks that needed to be done. Sometimes, she either didn’t have time to do them, or her time could be spent more wisely. Sometimes, they were things that needed to be done, but she didn’t like to do them. For many owners, that is the accounting part of the job. (Hire a bookkeeper!) For Susan, it was social media. Interacting with people on the various platforms is fine, but figuring out what to post weekly was another challenge.
The result of culling through her list was that we established this list for delegation:
- Creating blog images
- Proofreading blogs
- Proofreading proposals
- Scanning and culling emails
- Buffer (social media tool) posts
- Sharing blogs on various forums
- Getting any recorded materials (podcasts/videos) shared to the blog and YouTube
- Monthly clean-up for CRM
2. Show the person how to do it.
If you just provide a list of tasks, no one will ever be able to figure out how to meet your expectations on those tasks. You need to demo how to do each thing.
If your group is virtual, meet via Zoom and record the call. Or use Loom. Walk the person through all the tasks, showing them exactly what to do. Afterward, send the recording off to rev.com to be transcribed. Provide your assistant the recording and transcription to formalize the process as a Notebook in your Operations project in Teamwork. (Ah! Delegation at work!) Then, review it to confirm it’s what you expect.
3. Set the person free to do the work.
Part of delegation is ensuring the person understands the intention behind the task. For example, you can say, “Post the blog URL to this list of forums.” However, if you don’t explain the purpose of each forum and why you’re sharing in those forums, the delegatee can’t perform the task perfectly, and she will not meet expectations. You must be clear about the whys for delegatees to think for themselves. You are not handing off tasks to a monkey. Let that person think!
4. Put in checkpoints.
Nothing should go out publicly without your review. For example, schedule and review a test email in advance when your emails are set up. Then, you’ll have the opportunity to change it before it goes out or approve it. When social media posts are scheduled, review them on a set day of the week before they’re posted the next week.
If there’s a large project someone helps with, review it early to make sure your delegatee is on the right track. For example, when Susan hands off CRM cleanup, she shows and tells. Then the person is free to do the work. After that first round of work, look to ensure it’s going as expected.
4. Don’t fix it.
If the delegatee doesn’t reach the desired outcome, don’t just jump in and fix it yourself. This is the “I have to do everything myself” martyrdom that will take you down a bottomless pit. Be a manager. Explain what you had hoped to see. And then… let that person fix it. By allowing your delegatee the grace to correct her own mistakes, you also ensure it will be completed properly the next time.
5. Encourage questions and make time to answer them.
No one is going to “get it” the first time. You cannot be angry or feel they are wasting your time if they have questions. You have to stop and answer the questions. Delegation doesn’t mean that you never pay attention again. It requires leadership skills and guidance. One of those skills is to be present for your team. Plus, if they ask questions because you failed to mention it first, you know you need to update your processes.
6. Establish a method to be able to repeat the tasks.
If you are replacing an employee, she should be able to look at processes, pick them up and perform them without additional training. If anything changes have the team member update the process accordingly. Have them include the answer in the process if they come across a question.
There will be some things you don’t know anything about. For example, if you want to add a payment processor to your website, ask your assistant to research how to do it and write it up. Then you can go back to that process if needed because having it written – at the time it is happening – is invaluable.
7. Review processes regularly.
Let’s say that your previous assistant worked through the processes and updated them regularly. You should be in good shape. But, as you onboard a new or replacement hire, it is time to review that everything is as it should be. Now and then, it is good to make sure you know what you’re asking people to do for you. A transition is always a good opportunity for that. But, you could also schedule reviews of your processes every six months or annually, just to make sure. You also can delegate this task to a project manager, an office manager, or any process-oriented team member. Just make sure that person has a working knowledge of the task and is someone you trust to take ownership.
For more information on delegation, watch Scaling Smart with Trusty Oak and Beyond the Chaos [Video]
The Power of Delegation
Delegating can be addictive. Make sure you are calculating the cost of what you are delegating. Furthermore, make sure you are delegating the right things. For example, managing the qualification process for your sales might be worth delegating. Handing off the sales call itself is probably a bad idea. That doesn’t mean you can’t hire for that position and train someone for it. But, it is not something you delegate through a simple written process. (But, documenting that process is still worthwhile!)
The more precise you can be in handing off your work, the less likely it will need to be redone. So, taking that time is well worth it. Don’t scrimp on the education part of it.
And, always be a good leader to your team members. Be there for them. Answer their questions. Don’t act like they are burdening you by asking. Teach where you can, especially if it is about how to find out answers for themselves. Finally, never blame a team member publicly for something you delegated. In the end, it is still your responsibility.
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Laura L. Lane says
Really excellent article, thanks for this.
I’ve been on both sides of this process and there is some great bits of information in here!
Susan Fennema says
Thanks Laura! What tip do you think more of our readers should start with?