Delegation 101: What Small Business Owners Need to Know

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A business’s ability to evolve depends on its leader’s ability to let go of their death grip on… everything… and learn to delegate without micromanaging.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why delegating is so crucial to the good health of your business, and what you can do today to start growing your business by delegating effectively.

Prevent professional burnout

Burnout is a serious threat to your well-being and the success of your business. Trying to do too much can definitely lead to burnout.

Burnout occurs when chronic stress wears down your mental, emotional and physical reserves. As we explained previously:

Burnout can leave you feeling defeated, trapped, detached and unmotivated. It’s no small wonder then, that the phenomenon negatively impacts work performance as well. Procrastination, tardiness, and avoidance of responsibilities are all linked with on-the-job burnout. It can even affect you physically, leading to constant feelings of fatigue, loss of appetite, and frequent illness.

Those afflicted may suffer silently, but burnout isn’t just a personal issue; it directly impacts your business. The American Institute of Stress estimates that stress costs US Industry roughly $300 billion annually as a result of reduced productivity, missed work, and employee turnover and related training costs, among other factors.

Your valuable energy and time must be focused on working on your business rather than in it.

Your business is only as strong as your team

The future success of your business relies on the talent of the people you hire and their ability to grow.

Your employees cannot grow if they are not given the opportunity to take on a wider range of tasks and more responsibility.

If your employees can’t grow, neither can your business. Jesse Sostrin explains this phenomenon for the Harvard Business Review:

…the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands will eventually catch up to you, and at that point how you involve others sets the ceiling of your leadership impact. The upper limit of what’s possible will increase only with each collaborator you empower to contribute their best work to your shared priorities. Likewise, your power decreases with every initiative you unnecessarily hold on to.

Many business owners don’t know where to start, especially early in their business when they haven’t hired employees. As we wrote in our guide on starting a business:

You may want your first hire to be a part-time assistant. Look for someone who is a jack-of-all-trades, eager to learn new skills, with a strong work ethic. You’ll sleep better if you have someone in the trenches with you that you can rely on.

If you’re new to marketing, a marketer can help you strategize your business.

Ensure your business’s ability to function without you

If you were out of commission for a while, would your business continue to thrive in your absence? Or would it collapse like a house of cards?

Failure to delegate is not just a failure to share tasks in the present. It’s also a failure to invest in your business’s ability to function in the future.

Delegating tasks and important responsibilities to your employees means that they will have the ability to keep the business running if you can’t be there.

How to incorporate delegation into your leadership process:

Choose the right tasks

Delegate tasks that you don’t need to do.

There are crucial responsibilities that are best handled by you. What are they? Anything else should go to your support staff.

And, be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.

Tasks that you’re just not good at… they should be handled by someone else.

This is important in a wide range of businesses. For example, in our guide on starting a real estate business, we discuss the benefits and disadvantages of joining franchise brokerages versus boutique brokerages. Both give you some important benefits, including back-office staff who can handle many of the tasks that would quickly overwhelm a solo real estate broker.

Choose the right employees

Choosing the right employees to assign tasks will be key to your success.

Before delegating a task to an employee, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the employee have the time/capacity to take on more work?
  • Is the employee skilled enough to perform the task well?
  • Does the employee show the potential to learn to perform the task well?

And remember that delegation doesn’t mean the employee has to perform the task directly.

For example, few small business owners can create professional designs for their own company. And it’s rare that a small business will employ an experienced designer who can expertly craft a strong brand identity for the business.

You can ask one of your trusted employees to leverage the crowd to get help. Over the past decade, crowdspring has helped tens of thousands of the world’s best entrepreneurs, small businesses, agencies, and non-profits with everything from professional logo design to product design, packaging design, and even naming businesses and products.

Bake it in

Every extra decision you have to make is an extra drain on your resources. Decision fatigue is a very real threat. So, make it easy to delegate by creating your delegation plan ahead of time.

As the Harvard Business Review’s Amy Gallo points out,

Delegation shouldn’t be yet another task. Make it part of your process for creating staff development plans. Discuss which types of projects and tasks you will pass on to them so that they can build the skills they need.

Deciding how you will delegate tasks ahead of time saves you from having to decide how each task will be assigned over and over again as they come up.

Document company knowledge

Create task manuals and information guides that equip staff members to take on new tasks.

Is that an investment of your time? Yes. But, it’s one that will pay off every time an employee reads that manual rather than coming to you with their questions.

If you are the sole source of truth for all company knowledge, then others will be unable to function without draining your time.

Work on your business instead of in it

Follow the suggestions above. Get out of your own way and become a better leader.

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