It’s one of those words in the English language that strikes fear into the heart of many.
And if you’re a small business owner with a growing need for a team, it’s probably making you cringe right this very minute!
Many people struggle with the idea of delegation because it means having to let go. And that can bring up feelings of losing control.
For the entrepreneur, this is especially tough since we kind of enjoy running the whole show ourselves. I mean, that’s why we all ran screaming from the corporate structure in the first place, right?
Tell me if you’ve ever had any of these thoughts:
- “I don’t know if I’ll be able to let go.”
- “I’m the only one who knows how to do this – the right way.”
- “I’ve worked so hard at perfecting my process – I can’t chance anyone messing it up.”
- “I know I need to let go, but I just don’t know how.”
- “How will I ever be able to trust someone else to do this? This business is my baby!”
If you’ve had similar thoughts, you’re not alone.
These are just a few of the phrases that my clients have said to me during conversations we’ve had about delegating.
A lot of small business owners feel like they’ll never be able to delegate effectively. But you absolutely can – and I’m going to teach you how.
Before we dive right in, let’s take a closer look at delegation.
As I mentioned before, delegation seems so frightening because it feels like we’re losing control. But I want to help you redefine delegation today so it doesn’t feel so intimidating.
Think of delegating as the next natural step in designing a business and life that you love. It’s something you get to do for yourself as part of taking care of yourself and your business.
Delegation isn’t about losing control. It’s about gaining even greater freedom and flexibility.
Delegation as a Form of Self-Care
There’s a lot of chatter in the online business world about self-care.
It’s become another hashtag-of-the-moment that’s posted along with a clever caption and a perfectly curated photo of a bubble bath, a cup of steaming hot tea, or a lit scented candle in a decorative jar.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with those things. I like them too.
But I think self-care gets a bad rap. Because it’s so much more than just a mani/pedi/latte combo.
Delegation can absolutely be a form of self-care.
You have to think about it a bit more creatively, but the benefits of delegating can far outlast that 20-minute bubble bath. (‘Cause let’s be real, that’s as long as the water’s gonna stay warm in that tub!)
Here are a few ways you can look at delegation a bit differently:
- Lighten your workload and focus on work you’re exceptionally good at doing.
- Reduce the overwhelm of trying to do everything perfectly by yourself.
- Time to spend with your family in the evenings…instead of another 4 hours at work.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten into the right mindset about delegation, let’s dig into how we can trust and let go!
3 Steps to Help You Trust and Let Go
1 – Start small and delegate simple tasks first.
The first and most important step to take when you start outsourcing and delegating tasks is to start small.
You don’t have to turn over the keys to your business on day one (or ever)!
Choose a few simple tasks to delegate first that you either don’t enjoy doing or that take up a ton of your time.
These are different for everyone. It comes down to personal preference.
The key here is to start small.
2 – Give clear instructions and deadlines.
One of the biggest mistakes new leaders make is not communicating with their team by setting clear expectations.
In order to delegate effectively, you need to give clear instructions and deadlines.
If you ever find yourself wondering why things aren’t being done correctly or on time, take a look at how you’re communicating assignments and tasks with your team.
I highly recommend a simple method I like to call the “tell and repeat.” It works like this:
- Tell your team member what you specifically need for them to do or handle, along with a clear deadline, then
- Ask the person to repeat back to you what they just heard, so you can make sure you didn’t miss anything.
You can learn a lot about how you communicate with your team by doing this super simple exercise.
I’ve had great success using this method myself and so have many of the leaders I’ve worked with throughout the years.
Give it a try!
3 – Trust your team and let go.
The last, and arguably the hardest, step is to trust your team when you delegate tasks – and then let go.
You have to give the person a chance to do the job before assuming or jumping to conclusions that they can’t.
If you’re constantly hovering, nit-picking, or micromanaging your team, I promise you it’s not going to work.
Eventually, you’ll begin to wonder why you have a hard time keeping team members at all…which is not somewhere I want you to be, my friend.
Merriam-Webster defines delegation as “the act of empowering to act for another.”
It doesn’t say, “give the person a task, but then don’t let them do it because you’re hovering and micromanaging them.”
Other than that being a truly unsexy definition (sorry, Merriam-Webster!), it completely defeats the purpose of delegating altogether.
If you don’t give the person a chance to do the job, you might as well just do it yourself.
But I’m guessing you didn’t come here to learn how to keep doing the same things you’re doing to get different results.
Assign the task, give clear instructions and a deadline, and then let go and trust that it will get done.
The Art is in the Follow Up
I know that last step can be a tough one. Being able to trust that things will get done is not easy. Especially when it’s your name and reputation on the line.
But delegating does not mean letting go and never coming back.
As a leader, and especially as a small business owner, it’s your responsibility to know and stay on top of what’s going on in your business.
Things can spiral out of control if you don’t keep your finger on the pulse of a task, project, or business. You have to stay informed.
Part of effectively delegating is putting a process in place to follow up on and keep track of projects or tasks you’ve assigned to your team.
Every leader is different and you need to choose what works best for you. Just make sure to communicate the plan with your team!
Here are a few ideas for how to manage the tasks and projects you delegate:
- Use a project management tool like Trello or Asana to house all of your projects along with tasks and due dates
- Ask your team to send you weekly email updates recapping their project statuses and milestones
- Conduct a daily team meeting (in person or virtually) where each person shares an update on their project and/or any roadblocks they’re experiencing
When you have a plan for following up, you’ll avoid surprises, snowballing problems, and you’ll keep projects and tasks on track much easier. Not to mention, you’ll lose a lot less sleep!!
Delegation is an Art… and a Skill
Delegation is an art… and a skill we must learn as leaders.
We become skilled by practicing and making mistakes. So don’t be afraid to jump in. It’s the best way to learn.
Remember to start small, give clear instructions and a deadline, then trust and let go.
As your comfort levels rise, gradually let go of more. Before long you’ll wonder why you didn’t start delegating sooner.