Learn to Delegate

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

If you look up the definition of “control freak” in the dictionary, you’ll probably find my picture.  It’s not in my nature to delegate—and the same often holds true for business owners in general.  Many are fiercely independent … but there comes a point when that ferocity prevents success – if it keeps you from delegating less critical tasks to capable staff members so you can focus on the more critical tasks that make the company profitable.  What can the hard-charging, “nobody does it better”-type delegate?  Consider these situations:

1.  General knowledge tasks – There are many tasks that require no special knowledge or expertise; for example, ordering office supplies or delivering a product.  Hire an assistant, even if only part time, to work through your to-do list.

2.  Expert tasks – Some tasks do require special knowledge or certifications; for example, legal and accounting work.  Do not invest the time to gain that expertise when others can do it better and faster.

3.  Well-defined tasks – Are you crystal-clear on what you want done and how? Then get it off your plate. Usually, you do not want to delegate a task until you can provide clear instructions on its execution.  Otherwise, your assistant will either perform poorly or return for more guidance.

4.  Task dumps –Okay, so you’ve procrastinated or made a situation worse in an attempt to perform a task. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be delegated.  But when dumping an ugly project, make sure it comes with an extra dollop of explanation and encouragement (and gratitude!).  Then, learn from the experience to delegate it sooner.  Repeated dumping is a mark of disrespect for your staff … which breeds contempt. Morale will suffer.

5.  Take a long-term view – Yes, it might take more time the first time you delegate a task to instruct and supervise the worker in its proper execution.  That’s not a reason to hold onto it. You’re business can’t flourish if you do. Go through that painful phase. If the task arises regularly, you will save time again and again.

Tip:  There is an art to delegating – you must choose the best staff member and provide clear instructions and training to expect satisfactory results.

For more perspective on how to avoid micromanaging, check out the Forbes piece, “Be a Healthy Leader: Master the Art of Delegation.”

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