“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” –John C. Maxwell
Delegation means assigning the responsibility for a task or project to another person. It is one of the important skills you need as a leader, especially if you want to scale your business and profits.
As your business grows, you need to get more things done, and the need to delegate some of the tasks you used to handle well on your own becomes more urgent. By delegating those tasks, you can free up your time and energy to focus on high-leverage tasks that will serve your business growth.
Delegation is important because no matter how skilled you are, you won’t be an expert at everything. Besides, time is your most valuable currency, and having more people to help you carry out other tasks increases the efficiency of your business management. Moreover, delegation empowers your team and fosters trust and your people’s professional development.
While delegation is a very obvious path to your business's growth, a lot of leaders fail to delegate, and if they do, they sometimes fail to do it effectively.
One of the main reasons is pride. A lot of leaders think it is a sign of weakness. But delegation is not a sign of weakness but of a strong and effective leader.
Another reason is that some leaders find it hard to trust other people. They know they can’t do everything by themselves, but they are afraid to relinquish responsibility and rely on others.
They are either worried that the person they’ll assign tasks to might do poorly, or might not be able to deliver in a timely manner. While these worries might not be totally unfounded, it will only be true during the first few weeks or months. A good leader knows how to equip and empower the people they delegate responsibilities to, and will invest in training them accordingly.
Lastly, according to several studies, there are two psychological processes that make leaders reluctant to delegate tasks to others: the self-enhancement effect, in which people tend to evaluate outputs higher the more they are involved in the work, and the faith in supervision effect, in which leaders believe [falsely] that supervised work yields better results than unsupervised outputs.
If this is your first time delegating responsibilities to your team, or if you are having some trouble delegating effectively, here are some guidelines that can help you relinquish some responsibilities.
Start with the question, “What tasks or projects should I delegate to others?”
This is where most leaders struggle, especially when the business has grown too big. Don’t fall into the fallacy that as your business grows, your current tasks are just a combination of all prior roles you used to [be able to] do on your own. You need to identify which high-leverage tasks you need to focus on and which tasks you can entrust to others.
A simple guideline you can use is identifying the six T’s:
Tiny: these are small, often repetitive tasks that could accumulate over time. Tasks like scheduling appointments, clearing your inbox, answering emails and calls, and other admin tasks that might be better to assign to an assistant.
Tedious: that requires little to no skills but takes up too much time, such as organizing your database.
Time-consuming - these are tasks that take up a large chunk of time to handle but can be broken down into smaller tasks that can be handed to others.
Teachable: tasks that don’t require expertise and you can easily teach others can be delegated.
Terrible at: if you have no skills for a certain task or project, or you have some skill in it but it takes you longer than most experts who specialize in it (like video editing).
Time-sensitive: for projects that are time-sensitive, if you can’t handle all the tasks on your own, having an extra pair or two (or three, even five) of hands might help you meet the deadlines.
Once you’ve identified which tasks to delegate, it’s time to look for the right people to assign them to.
Ideally, selecting the right people for the tasks means taking into account both proficiency and passion for the job. But in reality, the best we can do is get as close to it as possible. One of the pitfalls leaders make in delegation is assigning the job to whoever is open and available at the moment.
But if you want to preserve quality, it is best to play to your employees’ strengths and skills, as well as their professional goals.
Master delegators don’t just know when and what to delegate; they also know how to select who to delegate the job to. Hire the people (or freelancers) with the necessary experience and know-how for the tasks you want to assign to them.
Once you’ve selected the right people, you need to give them the right tools and appropriate access to do their jobs well.
Set your expectations, give clear instructions, invest in providing all the necessary tools and training they will need, and give them some room for error. Especially if they are newly hired or if your business is relatively new and systems still need to be established.
Aside from equipping them, when you hand over the responsibility, make sure you also give them the proper authority to make certain decisions and execute those decisions. This improves efficiency instead of having to ask for permission every time.
“When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders.” -Craig Groeschel
Remember, you hired them because you felt that they were right or perfect for the job. You have to trust the person you hired, and yourself for choosing that person.
Follow-up is necessary after entrusting a task to the right person, equipping and empowering them. Establish a schedule of regular updates regarding the progress of a project or task completion and keep an open line of communication for feedback and reporting.
This is necessary to ensure that the project or task is going smoothly, and if there are any errors or room for improvement, you and your delegate can catch them before the output goes live to the public, or the product reaches the client.
However, be careful not to hover around your employee. It is hard to focus on working when someone is looking over your shoulder, waiting to point out any tiny mistakes you might make. Plus, it defeats the purpose of why you delegated those tasks in the first place—which is to be able to focus on high-leverage tasks, while ensuring that the rest of your business continues working.
The last, and most important thing, is to give recognition where acknowledgement is due. Thank your people for their hard work and give praise for excellent output. A little gratitude goes a long way in motivating your employees and promoting a good work environment and healthy culture.
Stepping up as a leader means knowing what tasks to let go of, choosing the people you want in your team, giving them the tools and training they need, and empowering them to perform and be their best. Don’t micromanage. Trust your team (or the freelancers you work with). Establish communication lines to follow-up as needed and build healthy work relationships by acknowledging their efforts and encouraging them.
Delegation is more than just giving tasks, it is about trusting each member of your team to contribute to the business. You grow with the people you lead.