Are you running your business, or is the business running you? Do you spend your days putting out fire after fire and never getting to the tasks or projects that you want to work on? Is there so much on your plate that you barely have time to answer your staff’s questions, let alone provide valuable leadership? If your answer is an annoying little “yes” to any of these, it’s time to talk about delegating.
FACT: Running a business (or a nonprofit) is hard work. There is always more to do than what you have time for in a day. As the leader, you feel responsible for making sure everything gets done, and gets done right. And the more successful you are, the more work there is to manage.
FACT: Every successful leader in the world has had to figure out how to delegate. And they have likely all struggled to figure out what and how to delegate. Effective delegation is key to managing your business while also leading your team.
The idea of delegating might seem impossible. After all, don’t you have to have everything organized in order to delegate it to someone else? The answer to that is no, and we’ll talk more about that later. Effective delegating is one of most important skills you can learn as a leader. In order to learn the skill, it helps to have some basic structures in place to make delegating easier. These three components create a solid foundation for effective delegating:
Establish the right structure
Hire quality staff
Understand your strengths
Finding the right structure for your business not only helps with delegation, but it sets you up for success in many other ways as well. This means establishing and communicating a clear chain of command, thoughtfully creating positions and departments, and ensuring everyone knows what they are accountable for and how their work impacts the success of the company. You can read a lot more about this topic by reading Structure – Getting it Right to Grow.
Quality staff does not always mean that you pay the very best or you provide the most glamorous jobs. Quality staff are those people who you trust. Those whose values align strongly with yours and those of your company. Those who have a positive attitude about the success of your business. In order to have confidence in delegating, you need staff who are willing, able, and motivated to help advance the work.
We all know that solid staff don’t grow on trees. And I’m not suggesting that this is a simple step. However, I do have a few tips to help. In addition to creating the right structure (mentioned above) for your business, here are some proactive steps you can take to create a breeding ground for quality staff.
Communicate your vision. All. The. Time. When staff do not see the bigger picture vision for your business, then all they have is a job. But when a picture is painted of the direction you are taking the company, and their role in helping to get there, then it becomes much more. They see the work they are doing as valuable. They want to help accomplish goals. And they understand better why things need to be performed a certain way.
Communicate your values. All. The. Time. Use your values when you talk about the big picture of your company. Use them to make hiring decisions. And use them in performance conversations. The first step is obviously to establish your values and to ensure that they truly reflect who you are as a company. Then, the more you use them, the more closely your staff will align with the values you hold dear. Staff will either self-select out if they don’t have the same values, or they will be drawn in if your values resonate with them. Both of those consequences create a stronger team.
Practice your listening skills. People want to be heard. Even if you cannot accommodate their requests, people feel better when they have been genuinely listened to. When we truly listen to someone, they feel valued and respected. What a great gift to give to someone! And don’t you think that staff who feel valued and respected will also be motivated to help you and your business? Listening is one of my very favorite topics, you can read more about developing these skills here and here and here and here. (Clearly a favorite topic.)
This part isn’t just about understanding your strengths. It’s also about understanding the things you love to focus on; as well as the things you’re not that great at or don’t like to spend time on. Here is a fairly simple exercise to help you determine what you should be delegating. Take a piece of paper and divide it into 4 quadrants. Label the boxes as follows:
Top left = enjoy, not great at
Bottom left = don’t enjoy, not great at
Bottom right = don’t enjoy, great at
Top right = enjoy, great at
From there, insert all of the tasks, responsibilities, and relationships that are on your plate. Look back at your calendar for a few weeks to make sure you capture everything. Once everything is recorded, it should be pretty easy to see which items would be good to delegate. Additionally, by practicing your listening skills, you will hopefully have an idea about staff who would enjoy or be good at the things you don’t like or don’t excel in.
Just Do it
Back to the point at the beginning of this article. Leaders often feel like they have to have everything in place, just right, before they can give a project or task to someone else. As the quote above states, perfection is the enemy of success. Perfection is an illusion, and if you keep waiting for everything to be perfect, you will never be able to let go. By creating the right structure, nurturing quality staff, and communicating consistently you will create a culture of trust. When that exists, you can trust your staff to handle projects and ask for help when needed. Also, your staff will trust that you will support them, even when they get stuck and need additional guidance.
The last point that I want to share on this topic has to do with the fact that you cannot be an effective leader if you are running from one crisis to the next and never taking the time to “work on the business”. A good leader spends time thinking about the direction they are taking their company. They spend time strategizing on how to reach their goals. They focus on how to lead and develop their team members. All of those things take time. Time spent away from the doing and fixing and scrambling. So as you consider what and how much to delegate, make sure you are giving yourself enough time to lead.
Need help establishing the right organizational structure for your business, creating a strong culture, or figuring out how to effectively delegate? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see how we get you moving on the path to growth.