Learning to Delegate: Do Less and Accomplish More 

Do you believe, “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? Are you the “chief cook and bottle washer” at your company because you don’t trust anyone else to do the job as well as you can? Many entrepreneurs are successful because they know how to take charge, they’re passionate about making sure their company succeeds, and they don’t mind putting in long hours to get the work done. 

But the very traits that make you successful as a business owner can sabotage your efforts to succeed by making it harder for you to delegate responsibility. The sad truth is, there are only so many hours in a day, and there’s only so much work one person can do, no matter how dedicated they are. If you want your business to grow, you can’t do it all yourself.

Why Delegate?

As a business owner, it’s your job to create your company’s strategic vision and make sure it gets communicated to your team. You set the core values for the company and safeguard the integrity of your brand. You set the goals and monitor your progress toward those goals. Those are your principal duties. If you’re neglecting them because you’re spending all your time on nonessential tasks, you’re short-changing your company. Prioritizing how you spend your valuable time is the first step toward long-term success.

Delegating some of your tasks can also help you avoid burnout. It’s important to keep a positive attitude and communicate it to your team, and to think clearly enough to develop new ideas and react quickly to opportunities. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, you won’t have the mental and physical stamina to perform at your best.

What to Delegate?

As the saying goes, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” Focus is essential for success in both sports and business. Olympic athletes concentrate on their sport single-mindedly for years, giving up other opportunities to focus on what they really wanted most. Once you’ve set a goal for your business, give it your all. As you start each business day, ask yourself what you can do that day to get closer to your goal, and refuse to be distracted by unimportant tasks. 

  • Low-value tasks. Don’t spend your valuable time filing, creating reports, or other tedious tasks that could be done by an hourly employee.
  • Things that are out of your wheelhouse. If you don’t know accounting or IT, it makes sense to hire someone who does, instead of trying to learn an entirely new area of expertise. This is especially important for jobs that can have legal repercussions if done incorrectly: payroll, legal filings, taxes, etc.
  • Jobs that drain your energy. If you really hate a particular job, and doing it makes you feel depressed or frustrated, hand it off to someone else. It’s important to safeguard your attitude so you can continue to drive forward and inspire your team. 

How to Get Started

When setting up a household budget, the first step is recording all your expenses to see where your money goes. The same principle applies when trying to budget your time wisely. Review your calendar and your to-do lists to see where your time is going. Then:

  • Identify a few tasks that can be offloaded to someone else so you can concentrate on more important projects. Start small to give yourself and your staff a chance to get used to the new system.
  • Find the right person to handle the task, whether it’s an outside resource like a CPA or one of your own staff. Make sure they have not only the skill set, but also the temperament to handle the additional duties.
  • If you’re handing off a job to one of your team members, make sure to explain it in enough detail so they’ll feel comfortable taking over. It may be best to have them shadow you for a while and carefully observe what you’re doing and how you do it. 
  • Communicate, communicate! Make sure they know why the job is important, what the end result should be, how you expect it to be done, and what the timeline is. Also communicate the new assignment to the rest of the team so they can offer assistance if necessary.
  • Provide whatever equipment or supplies they need, including software, additional work space, etc.
  • The hardest part comes next: let go, hand it over, and try not to fret about it. This is easier if you remembered to start with a low-value task that won’t cause a disaster if it’s not done properly.
  • “Trust, but verify.” Set up a schedule to monitor your employee’s progress, especially in the beginning. Having a schedule in place before the task is delegated will reassure you that the work is being done as planned, and will reassure the employee that you won’t be swooping in unannounced to try to catch them in an error.
  • Be flexible. Leave some room for the new person to exercise their own judgment and apply their own methods to getting the task completed. Since everyone has a different way of approaching problems, you may discover that their way is actually more efficient!
  • Once you’ve started the process of offloading a few small tasks, keep going and see how much time you can free up by adding more jobs to the list. 
  • The final step in the process is to decide how to make the best use of the time you’ve saved. There’s nothing wrong with deciding to re-balance your work-life, since many entrepreneurs put their family and their personal lives on hold while they’re building a business. However, you may find that extra hours at work can be used for strategic planning, networking, attending educational conferences, or other high-level duties you didn’t have time for when you were busy doing everything yourself.