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Effective Delegation – Am I The Bottleneck?

Henry Dumas

There are not enough hours in the day for us, as entrepreneurs, to do everything we have to do. Despite this we do not delegate work. We feel it is quicker to finish the job ourselves and that we do not have the time to train others.

However, if the business is to continue its development and growth, and if it is to become better at what it is already doing, all entrepreneurs will reach the stage where it is necessary to delegate certain tasks to others. Otherwise, the business owner can become a “bottleneck” and, ironically, cost the business more time and money by not delegating.

So, how do we get out of this vicious cycle and start delegating more work to employees?

In reality not delegating is not just about time. There are much deeper, emotional reasons why entrepreneurs hesitate before delegating.

The first and biggest emotional barrier to delegation is the feeling that you are the only person who can do the job properly, and deliver a quality product on time. This may actually be the case, as long as no description of the job or the responsibilities has been formulated, you are the only one who really knows precisely how the task needs to be completed. Thus it is not a question of accepting that others will do a worse job, but rather of training others to do the task in the desired way and in the right manner.

Another related barrier can be that you feel uncomfortable about loosening your control of the business as the activity level rises and an increasing number of employees are performing more tasks daily than you can manage to oversee. There are many very good reasons to be a “control freak” in a startup business. In the fragile startup phase, minor details can become crucial to a business’s survival and success. However, there are ways of keeping sufficient control of operations, without you having to control the work that is done.

The main problem is that you waste both money and potential when you carry out tasks that others could do. It makes more financial sense to pay others to do certain tasks, so you can spend your own time on more important things.

How do you become good at delegating so that you can make time for it all?

It is not easy to overcome emotional barriers, but being conscious of what is holding you back is a good first step, along with the awareness that delegating is necessary if you want to go from being a good entrepreneur to becoming a good business manager.

Another step in the right direction is to gain an overview of how well you delegate – one of the most important management skills, which you, as an entrepreneur, may never really have been trained in. It usually takes very thorough preparation and a systematic approach to delegate some of the most difficult tasks.

Consider these Steps to Become More Masterful at Delegating:

1.            The first phase is the planning phase, which involves deciding which tasks to delegate. This decision demands an overview of both your own tasks and those in the company at large. In addition, a description needs to be made of how to solve the tasks in relation to different processes, procedures or methods. This can be done in a number of ways, for example by making checklists with commentaries, guidelines, standard templates, or project descriptions, which can support the employee when solving a task.

2.            It is important to include the right amount of detail so that the employees are motivated to think creatively about the solution to the given task.

3.            The last step is to determine which of your employees is the right person for the task. During this process, you may discover that you need to recruit a new employee instead, with the right profile skills and interests for the job.

When you have clarified which areas of responsibility need to be delegated and to whom, you have laid the foundation for the complete delegating process.

Describe the Assignment
Explain the “why”, the process, and the expected results from the task. To give the employee context, it is particularly important to explain why the assignment needs to be done. It is equally important to outline and explain the results you expect from the assignment. If you clarify both, the employee can determine which method to use to solve the assignment. If, on the other hand, the task requires a specific approach, or perhaps the involvement of specific people, this should be clarified in the work description. The employee also needs to know the priority and deadline of the task.

The Briefing
The briefing can be done by email, in a phone call, or meeting. Each of these methods has an advantage. For example, it can be really good to have a written description of a more complex assignment, while a briefing in person can be useful to highlight various details.

A combination of the three ways of delivering an assignment is often the best approach if there is time. This will also allow you to check whether the employee has understood the assignment with questions such as “How do you plan to approach the assignment? What do you need input on? Which parts of the assignment are unclear?”

If you are in a situation where many assignments need to be delegated, you may have to create a training plan for all employees, which may include everything from IT skills to customer understanding or handling of documents in the business.

The Control Phase
Control can sound rather negative, but it is an important and necessary part of delegating and something employees need and expect. How much control is needed in the next three phases, fully depends on the situation and how much experience the employee has in relation to the assignment. The first step in the checking and evaluation process could be helping the employee by supervising i.e. keeping an eye on the employees’ progress on the assignment, possibly by helping him/her complete parts of it the first time. You could also arrange for the employee to report back to you in the form of an email or a statistic in a spreadsheet, thereby, regularly inform you how the process or the results are progressing.

Follow-up

Follow-up is necessary when a deadline is not met. It is not always because the employees are not sufficiently responsible. It can be due to unforeseeable events or that the employee is still unsure about the assignment or what needs to be prioritized. Following up will solve this problem and it is, therefore, important that the manager keeps a list of delegated assignments.

Debriefing

The final step in the optimal delegating process is to hold a debriefing where you as a manager are able to survey the results and comment particularly on the parts that are not up to your expectations. Without this step, you deprive the employees of the opportunity to do better next time and thereby earn a new assignment or a bigger area of responsibility.

There are many small things you have to do if you want to successfully hand over your responsibilities to others. Therefore, it takes time to delegate, but in the end, it saves you more time and lay the foundation for development both for the entrepreneur and for the business.

The entrepreneur does not have to shoulder responsibility alone for the delegation functioning. Employees can also be made responsible for ensuring that the delegating process functions, by making sure that they ask for assignments and ask questions to ensure that they are clear on what they are working toward. If a manager still lacks the trust needed to delegate an assignment to an employee it may also be the responsibility of the employee to gain the necessary, trust from his/her boss.

When good delegating becomes a shared responsibility for the entire organization, it increases the chances of creating an environment where you accomplish a lot and have time for it all.

Portrait Henry Dumas

Henry Dumas, Professional Certified Coach
I am passionate about helping business owners to stabilize and grow their businesses through one on one executive coaching. With over 30 years of private sector experience helping companies succeed in roles such as Sales Manager, Small Business Owner, Agency Manager, Chief Financial Officer, Public Accounting-Audit and Controller as well as certifications earned as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Covey Facilitator and GrowthWheel Certified Business Advisor, I am well positioned to engage, enlighten and empower business Owners.

Find Henry on LinkedIn

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