Successful entrepreneurs: effective delegation strategies
We recently talked to Kevin Hopson, co-founder of TaxPoint — an online tax filing software with both free and paid versions — about his experiences as an entrepreneur and he shared two pieces of advice that, on the surface, seem to be contradictory – but really aren’t.
Piece of advice #1: As a business owner, you should work harder and put in more hours than anyone else in your company.
Piece of advice #2: Learn to delegate.
Rice University provides an excellent overview of why delegation is so crucial, defining successful delegation as “turning the right tasks over to the right people for the right reasons, with the resources and authority to act. It requires giving employees enough information, authority, and resources to get the job done the way it needs to be done. Delegation goes beyond just handing off the job. It includes setting performance expectations, following-up, and providing feedback.”
Successful delegation, according to Rice University:
- Allows you to dedicate more time and energy to important tasks
- Gives employees opportunities to grow in skill and experience
- Creates opportunities for you to turn over tasks where your employees are more skilled
- Helps to fight off burnout
Holden Leadership Center adds more reasons why appropriate delegating is beneficial:
- More projects and activities can be undertaken
- It’s more likely that projects will be completed
- Your company or organization operates more efficiently
The leadership center also lists times when delegating is NOT appropriate:
- You simply don’t want to do the task and/or see it as menial work
- This work is clearly your responsibility
- The problem or issue is big, currently unsolved and/or deals with confidentiality
We took a look around online to see what other experts were saying about delegating, and this quote by Martin Zwilling in Forbes.com caught our attention: “For a few, delegating comes easily, maybe too easy. For others who are perfectionists, letting go of even the most trivial task is almost impossible.”
If delegating is too easy for you, refer to Kevin’s first piece of advice. Are you sure you’re being a role model for a strong work ethic? If it’s hard for you to delegate, do you have perfectionist tendencies that you need to address?
More tips on delegating
This next piece of advice comes from Harvey Mackay in Inc.com: stop believing you’re the only one who can do the job properly. Establish expectations and standards, he says, but don’t let the methodology be the issue. The person taking over the task may not do it precisely how you would – and that’s okay. He also says that “An important and often overlooked part of delegation is that it helps develop employees for advancement and creates a better work environment.”
Then, of course, you need to determine WHAT to delegate. Forbes.com says that your time should be spent on the most critical business tasks, those that only you can do. Here is another key point. You need to listen and observe before you delegate – and then hand off work to people who deliver, rather than to those who are least busy. This “requires hiring people with the right skills, not the least expensive or friends and family.”
Other key elements include giving clear instructions, including a completion date. Also: “Give public and written credit. This is the simplest step, but one of the hardest for many people to learn. It will inspire loyalty, provide real satisfaction for work done, and become the basis for mentoring and performance reviews.”
Intriguing quadrant approach
Finally, Travis N. Turner of Creative Leader takes a quadrant approach to delegating that breaks the process down this way:
- Delegate routine work to the newbies.
- Delegate difficult work to niche players, with Turner defining niche players as those with a “specific skill set that is well-adapted to handle the particular work, including the right technical skills, knowledge, and experience.”
- Delegate semi-strategic work to rising stars, defined as “highly talented, responsible individuals that have great potential, but are currently inexperienced or lacking key competencies that they will eventually develop.”
- Delegate strategic work to your stars. “Strategic work is very often non-urgent work that is hard to complete because of limited resources and time constraints. Thus, a constant challenge of leaders is to free up their resources from routine work so they can work on semi-strategic or strategic projects. Spending more time on strategic work tends to generate build yields that pay increasing (or even exponential) dividends over time.”
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