What is Delegation?
By definition, delegation is to “entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself.”
I find the word “entrust” quite telling here. It does require trust. And practice.
Why Does Delegation Matter?
Unless you are building a lifestyle business, you are going to need people to help you as the business grows. And the better you are at delegating, the more that will get done and the better and more successful your business will be.
I’ve seen list after list of how to be a good delegator and they all make good points, but I feel like they forget some much bigger issues.
What It Takes to Be a Good Delegator
Be A Decent Person
If you are a narcissist, a control-freak, or just a straight-up sociopath, you won’t be good at delegating, so fix that first. Or just stay in business by yourself. Please.
Remember That The Person You Delegate To Is Also A Person
Most people want to please. And virtually everyone wants to keep their job (unless you are one of the bosses mentioned above). So treat the person you delegate to with respect and fairness and the delegation process will already have a much better chance of success. And remember, this person just might be as smart and capable as you. Just maybe.
Use Systems to Help With Delegation Management
Use systems to help you delegate to people, track their progress, as well as allow them to communicate their progress. And please don’t make that a spreadsheet or email. Use something that resembles a project management tool such as Insightly, Monday, Basecamp, or PayMo. Every one of these systems offers a basic, per-user fee that is free to very reasonable. Implement it. Use it.
Don’t Have Staff Update Meetings
And for the love of all things holy, please do not hold an “all hands weekly meeting” to get updates on your delegated tasks. You already have the updates in your system (see above) and a one-on-one conversation with the delegate is much more efficient. Or even better, use that system (see above) to ask specific questions you would like answered.
Obviously, I have some unresolved trauma about bad delegations. I’ve seen so many in my time, it makes me sad. I’m sure there are projects from 1995 that are still not finished because the delegation and follow-up were so poor. And Y2K has already come and gone.
The Specifics of Delegation Management
The Delegator’s Checklist
So, get the general parameters under control. Now for the specifics. When you delegate a task, make sure you address the following issues:
- What is the end product you are expecting? A recommendation, a list of possibilities, general research?
- When do you expect this end product? Is there a deadline? Is it fixed or flexible?
- How does this task fit into the bigger picture? How will the result of this task be used towards the bigger goal?
- How often would you like updates and how? A weekly summary in Basecamp, for example.
- What resources are needed and have you made them available?
The Delegate’s Checklist
And if a task is delegated to you, you have a big role in making the delegation successful as well. Here’s your checklist:
- Do you understand the task? If not, get more information.
- Communicate if the project hits a dead end. Don’t spin your wheels.
- Provide regular updates to the delegator. Maybe even more frequently than requested.
- If the project starts taking you in a different direction, communicate promptly so that a decision can be made on next steps.
The Result? A Better Business
And the great thing about delegation? Every time you delegate to someone, the process gets better and better. The first one might be a little rocky, but, eventually, you will have dozens of people in the organization all working toward the company’s goals. Making the business much bigger and better than yourself.
Caroline Devoy founded Biz Hippo to provide outsourced accounting services to small- and medium-sized founder-run businesses. She has over 30 years of accounting experience in small businesses and for 10 years ran her own internet retail company. She writes on topics of interest to small business owners.