By definition delegation is the, ‘assignment of authority and responsibility to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities.’ Important to note is that the person who delegates the work remains accountable for the outcome. It is for this reason that people and entrepreneurs in particular, shy away from delegation. Is the chance of having the task done poorly or even not at all worth the risk of delegation?
Many traits synonymous with a successful entrepreneur naturally hinder delegation. Their independence, ‘get it done’ attitude, impatience and ego often prevent them from passing on even the most minor tasks to other people. Catherine Eibner, serial entrepreneur and most recently Developer Evangelist for Microsoft Australia, admits that she once too held the strange belief that she had to do everything. ‘From scrubbing the floors to hooking up computers to the internet,’ she continuously found herself distracted from what she should have really been doing – growing her business!
Eibner, recalls the exact moment when she realised that these mundane day-to-day tasks were actually making her and her business inefficient and unsuccessful. A friend suggested she hire ‘a sociable, eager and hard-working’ person he knew with no formal training to look after her accounting and bookkeeping. Outraged that her friend would suggest someone with no qualifications she immediately dismissed the idea, before suddenly realising that the person her friend was describing was actually no different from her.
So often, entrepreneurs find themself acting as the office manager, book keeper, marketing director, accountant and ultimately jack of all trades regardless of the fact that they may not be qualified for any of these roles. Unfortunately whilst they may in fact be very capable of all of these things, it can become very easy to lose sight of the end goal.
After being thrown what she describes as ‘the greatest small business lesson [she] ever learnt,’ Eibner quickly became very fond of outsourcing. She realised that if she spent for example, ’10 hours a week chasing new clients and netted $1,000, one hour of her time could then be valued at $100.’ By outsourcing small tasks for $25-$50 per hour to a book keeper or virtual receptionist she was actually saving a lot of money!
Greek mogul, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou of the ‘easy’ empire (easyJet, easyHotels and easyCar – just to name a few!) believes that aside from this it is still extremely important for entrepreneurs to make their own mistakes. Not to say that he is unwilling to also hand over the reins, but he believes it is extremely important for an entrepreneur to prove first that his/her business model is sound. Paying attention to the smallest of details and ensuring that any mistakes that arise are solved properly he says will allow you to build a successful venture that you can trust someone else to manage.
In the meantime, some carefully planned and clear delegation may be the next best step for entrepreneurs. Donna Robinson, a business consultant with the University of West Georgia in the United States of America, believes there are three keys to successful delegation. (Robinson, D. Can Entrepreneurs Delegate? Business Sense, Georgia)
1) ‘Careful planning of what is to be done and who is best suited to do it.’
By getting to know your staff and becoming familiar with their skills and passions you will be able to appropriately delegate tasks. This also acts as a way to offer your employees the opportunity to further showcase their skills and grow within the company.
2) ‘Clear communication of why the task is important, and what is expected, including outcomes, reporting and timeframes.’
You cannot expect someone else to complete a set task exactly the way you would. Their individual mindset, training and experiences will influence how they set about carrying out a task. It is important to outline clearly what is expected and of course by when, but it is also crucial that you allow your staff the freedom to explore possible solutions.
3) ‘Feedback mechanisms in place for ascertaining what worked and what did not work and rewarding good or correcting bad performance.’
It is expected that the ‘delegator’ monitors the performance of the people he/she delegates tasks to. By providing constructive feedback and rewarding great performances, delegation will become a lot easier – for everyone involved.
Whilst, it is hard for an entrepreneur to ignore the fact that they will be held ultimately responsible for the outcome of a delegated task, he/she cannot deny that the possible benefits are far greater. By carefully delegating tasks to capable and motivated employees, an entrepreneur can free up valuable time that can be spent on growing their business. Put aside that ego, and give a little – you may find you in fact gain a lot!