What is the secret to accomplishing an insane amount of work?
Face it, you are one person who has only 24 hours in a day and only so much energy, skill, and knowledge to go around. You can’t do everything that your business needs alone. You just can’t. So stop trying.
The sooner you start leveraging other people’s time, skills, and knowledge, the sooner you will get where you want to go.
Delegation helps you in several ways:
- It is a way for you to offload tasks that aren’t the best use of your time
- It is a way to have the best person for a task do the work
- It is a way for you to get more done in any given block of time
Every small business owner I know has a list of things to do much longer than they can ever hope to complete. Even after cutting all but the most important items, it is usually still too big to tackle themselves.
If you’ve been following along with this series on annual planning, you’ve created a long list of things to do this year. Delegation is the only way you’re going to get it all done.
How to delegate
Delegate to who?
The first question that usually comes up is “who can I delegate this stuff to?”
The first place to look is to your employees. This is a readily available group of people who are willing and able to pitch in.
Often, your employees want to take on more responsibility. They want a challenge. They want to show value to the company. They want to contribute to the company’s success. They’re maybe even a little bored with the regular routine and want to do something different.
Your employees also know the business and they’re already on the payroll.
“But I don’t have any employees!”
There are still plenty of options to delegate. Here are a few places you can look:
- Your spouse or other family members
- Temporary staffing, either through an agency or that you find on your own
- Student interns
- Personal assistants
- Professionals and other service providers
Yes, these people will cost you money (well, maybe not your spouse). Before dismissing the idea of spending scarce money for help, think about a few things.
- How much will it cost you to not do these things or to do them poorly?
- What more important tasks are you going to forgo so you can do these things?
- How willing are you to scale back your goals and plans to only those things you can do alone?
A basic fact of business is that you are going to have to spend money to make money. And yes, that means taking the risk it won’t pay off.
By not making the investment upfront, you are saying “I’m going to wait until I make money to spend the money needed to make money.” Good luck with that.
Hold them accountable
Now that you’ve found suitable people to delegate to, how can you maximize the chance of success?
Successful delegation is all about clear communication and expectations.
When you are delegating a responsibility to someone, follow these steps:
- Clearly state the expected outcome and the larger goal that this will support
- Explicitly list any specific requirements and processes (if any) that must be followed
- Provide all relevant and necessary materials and information needed to complete the task
- Establish explicit deadlines and, if necessary, intermediate milestones
- Confirm the person you are delegating to understands the goal, the required final product, and all requirements
- Confirm the person you are delegating to is comfortable with their ability to complete the task
- Confirm agreement with the established schedule
- Check-in regularly during the project and provide explicit feedback on performance
It may seem like delegating something requires some work from you to organize everything. It does. But it requires less time and effort than trying to do the work yourself.
You may also wonder if you really have be detailed about what you want done. Yes, you do. You have to be detailed for one simple reason.
The person you are delegating to cannot read your mind.
Most of the time, the reason your expectations were not met is that you failed to communicate those expectations clearly. Save everyone time and aggravation. Be clear upfront and provide feedback throughout the process.
There is one foolproof way to make sure you have communicated everything clearly. Have the person you are delegating to explain the goal, the desired outcome, and the requirements back to you in their own words. Explain and confirm as many times as necessary. It will be time well spent.
All your work to this point is for nothing if you don’t follow-up and hold people accountable. Once a deadline has been agreed to, you need to make sure it is met or that there is a good reason (discussed well in advance) why not. You also need to make sure that what you receive meets or exceeds your expectations. If not, it is your job find out why and get the deficiencies remedied. Notice that I didn’t say “fix them yourself.”
Delegation is your secret weapon to accomplishing bigger things than you could ever do alone. Use it liberally.
We’ve come a long way in the past five weeks. We’ve:
- Written out a vision for the business 12 months from now
- Reviewed where we are today
- Created a list of priorities to get us from where we are to where we want to be
- Broken our priorities down into manageable pieces and established a schedule to address them
- Learned to effectively delegate to get those priorities done
Next week we’ll talk about tracking your progress and adapting to change throughout the year.
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