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How small business owners can delegate effectively

Simon Collins
Written by Simon Collins

‘When you delegate work to a member of the team, your job is to clearly frame success and describe objectives.’

Steven Sinofsky, former Microsoft executive

53 percent of business owners believe their business would grow by 20 percent if only they delegated 10 percent more work to employees. Effective delegation is essential if you want to run a growing, profitable business; the saying ‘if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself’ is dangerously antithetical to good business practice.

But, while delegation is the key to unlocking business growth, business owners are still reluctant to delegate. And when they do, it’s often not done as effectively as it might be.

So, how do you delegate well and remove the bottle neck to profitable business growth?

Like most things, delegation is a learnable skill. With the tools and principles we’re about to cover, you’ll be a master delegator in no time.

Let’s jump in.

How to decide what to delegate

The first step is to become keenly aware of what you should and shouldn’t be delegating.

Below are some rules of thumb to follow:

  • Can someone else do it better? It makes no sense to do tasks that someone else can do better. If you have no background in web-design, hire professionals to do the job right.
  • Can someone else do it faster? So, maybe you can build a website. But is it worth your time if someone else can do it in half the time? Probably not.
  • Do you enjoy it? Life’s too short not to do things you love. If you hate designing websites, delegate that work instead of doing it yourself.

As you can tell, there are many variables to consider when deciding what you should delegate, and so the answer won’t always be crystal clear. But hey – no one said running a business would be easy. Just make best-guesses, reflect on the success of things you do delegate, and then refactor and improve what you do going forward.

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The perils of micromanaging

‘The result of micromanagement is perhaps tangible in the short run, but more often causes damage for the long term.’

― Pearl Zhu, Change Insight: Change as an Ongoing Capability

When you trust your employees enough to take on more responsibility, it’s easy to manage everything down to the last detail. After all, it’s your business, so surely you should decide how things are done? 

Hold your horses. Micromanagement is a dangerous game to play.

In an HR survey, 85 percent of respondents said micromanaging negatively affects their morale. There’s no argument that micromanagement is a detriment to employee happiness, but many managers still fail to relinquish control and trust their team.

Below are some tips to stop micromanaging:

  • Don’t manage tasks – manage expectations. Set goals for your team, and then let them decide how to get there.
  • Remove yourself from the scene. It's tempting to micromanage when you’re in the same room. So, if you feel tempted to micromanage, walk away and leave your employees to it.
  • Communicate openly with your staff. It’s not always easy to know if you’re helping or micro-managing, so keep an open-dialogue with staff and adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Accept failure and focus on growth. Micromanagement can be born out of not wanting to let your employees or the company make mistakes. But to empower your team and encourage them to take on more responsibility, you must let them fail at times.

Micromanagement disempowers your employees, and it shouldn’t be confused with effective delegation. However, resisting micromanagement and letting your employees get on with things alone also has its drawbacks...

Fuzzy goals kill engagement

On the other side of micro-management is the problem of vagueness and uncertainty. If expectations and goals are unclear, you’ll also lose employee engagement as they become frustrated in the grey, murky waters you’ve left them.

To make things as clear as possible, set SMART goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific – be precise in what actions need to be taken.
  • Measurable – whenever possible, add measurable constraints. Think, ‘write a 500-word article’, and not ‘write an article.’
  • Achievable – if you make something too difficult, employees will be frustrated, so be realistic.
  • Relevant – ensure the goal aligns with the wider company vision to provide more meaning for the work.
  • Timely – set a deadline so employees can manage their time effectively.

You don’t have to set SMART goals for all the work you delegate, but with new hires or those taking on new responsibilities, SMART goals will provide guidelines to empower employees to work well, and to do so without micromanagement.

Delegation empowers employees, but why stop there?

‘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, American author

Delegation will free your time up so that you can focus on high-value actions, whilst at the same time empowering your employees to become more responsible and productive.

But empowering employees doesn’t stop with delegation.

Software like Turbine gives employees (and you) the tools to track and manage things like time-off, expenses, and purchase orders. It also lets you delegate actions while you’re away. Using HR software is another way to empower your employees and take work off the plate of your HR team (or your plate if you’re still doing HR yourself).

For more on how Turbine can help your business streamline its HR whilst empowering your employees, read our guide below.

Beginner's guide to workplace automation AB variant

Delegation , small business owners , Small business

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