Particularly for small business owners, delegating tasks to others can be a real challenge. Many owners start out either alone or with just a few partners, so they become accustomed to doing a considerable share of the work themselves, while the rest often suffer from, “if I want something done right, I have to do it myself” syndrome. But, difficult as it can be, even the most workaholic among us know that there comes a time (be it vacation, illness, or simply needing to downsize your workload) when delegating becomes necessary. And for that, apply the following 5 time-tested principles and watch everything fall into place.
1. Get organized
When delegating responsibilities and tasks to others, it helps to start with a very clear list. A few lists, actually. One should account for everything you see yourself as primarily responsible for. From that list, pull items that you would feel comfortable delegating down to people below you, and pull items to a separate list of things you would rather delegate to people on your level or higher. Not only will this give you a road-map moving forward, it’s also a fantastic way to take stock of your work load – a way by which to empower yourself to rearrange your tasks to be more efficient.
2. Delegate down with support
See this as an opportunity to empower junior employees in your company with more responsibility and a chance to grow and develop new skills and strengths. When you’re selecting people to take on parts of your work that you wish to free yourself of, think of it as a positive move towards the growth and diversification of skills within your business. Delegating can not only bring balance to your life, but can end up strengthening your whole company.
3. Delegate, don’t dump
When you’ve decided which projects to unload, and identified who are the best people to give them to, approach the conversation with patience and enthusiasm. Make sure to explain to each person why you think they are uniquely suited to take over this task or responsibility, everything involved with its management, and offer plenty of initial and ongoing support as they take over the new role. This is the difference between people feeling encouraged to take steps forward, and feeling dumped upon.
4. Take advantage of the lighter load
If you have a specific reason for delegating in the short term, such as vacation, then the payoff on your end is clear. But if your exercises in delegation are part of a more general plan to clear a bit of your professional plate, make sure to follow through on your end. Go back to that original list of all your responsibilities and see which things need – and can now get – more attention.
5. Actually let go
It’s one thing to make lists and have meetings where you hand off projects, and offer support, but be careful that that “support” doesn’t turn into you simply continuing to do that part of the job. This can be the hard part, but at some point, you have actually leave the office, turn off your smartphone (okay, maybe just silence it), and trust that you’ve amassed a team of people around you who are capable and willing to carry on while you take a minute off. Enjoy it!