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How to Delegate, Not Dump

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How to Delegate, Not Dump

The delegation of tasks and responsibility is perhaps one of the most challenging and important skills for any business owner to develop. 

Even if you have no staff, there will be suppliers who do work for you. Think of your accountant, your lawyer, your banker and your mechanic. When it comes to external specialist providers, you may not ever have done what you are asking them to do, in the same way, you would with staff, yet you still need to manage the process well.

My last article, Why you must ask for help and the top 5 things to do to get the help you need, raised the question of why you need to ask for help and delegating effectively is something that will help you to ask for help and feel reassured that help will come in the way that you need it to. In many cases, business owners get frustrated because they have had an experience of delegating that backfired.

The question to ask yourself is, “What caused the gap between what was expected and what was delivered?”

  • Was the right person/provider chosen?
  • Were the instructions clear?
  • Were the expectations discussed and clarified?

Effective delegation is a process that can be more complicated than initially expected. Get it wrong, and it will cause problems and make you reluctant to ask for help. Get it right, and the benefits for you and the other party are very clear:

  • Staff will grow in confidence and skill, and your business and customers will benefit.
  • Your workload will reduce, allowing you to focus on the areas that only you can do.

Steps to effective delegation:

1. Clearly define the task.

It is hard, if not impossible, for you to assess results and for the person to do well unless the task being delegated has clear boundaries. In terms of engaging a supplier, doing more than what was expected is often referred to as over servicing, overbilling or scope creep, and it’s not a good thing!

2. Choose the person and assess their ability.

This step is very important. Your choice of who a task is to be delegated to must be based on availability and capability. Sure, some training may be required to get an employee’s skills to the right level and if so you must factor that time and effort into your expectation setting.

3. Agree on a timeframe and results.

Make sure both parties are crystal clear on the deadline and time for results as well as the quality of results required. For instance, are you asking for a draft of a report or a final version? This has a huge impact on time, effort (and costs) as well as potential expectation gap.

4. Define the communication processes.

When you delegate, are you willing to take questions or do you expect updates (especially for a longer than a couple of days task or for tasks that are really significant)? Be ready to provide feedback in an appropriate way.

5. Reflect and review the experience.

Was this the right task to delegate? You can delegate a task and responsibility, but as the business owner, you are always accountable for what goes on in your business.

Learning to delegate effectively is an essential skill for managing people and yourself and forms part of good coaching and training programs.

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