One of the biggest causes of stress for a business owner is getting a grip on everything that needs to be done. When you own a business, you have so many different hats to wear and the number of tasks you have to do can be overwhelming. It often feels like we are sinking and just doing enough to keep us afloat, rather than focusing on growing the business and doing the bits that make us happy – the part that we started the business for in the first place.
I’ve got one word for you….
I know, you like the idea of delegating, but your business is your baby and the thought of handing important aspects over to someone else who doesn’t understand it like you do is a frightening prospect. However, it doesn’t have to be as big-a-deal as it first seems, and you’ll hopefully be comforted to know that learning to delegate is something many business owners struggle with.
Why is delegation important?
Delegation has many benefits. I’ll break down the main ones for you.
Free up some time
When you are so busy you’re not spending enough time on each task, racing through tasks without thought and working all night, delegating can help take off the pressure, allowing you to breathe and regroup. It can be as much about keeping a healthy mind and reducing stress as it can be about getting everything done.
When you’re involved in all the day-to-day tasks and reacting to what is coming in, you never get the opportunity to drive your business forward. Delegating can free you up to strategies and reflect on the direction you want your business to go in. Sometimes you need to step away to really get back to your ‘why’ and make sure your taking your business to a new level.
Enhanced skill set
Although we often think the best person for the job is ourselves, very often that just isn’t the case. Yes, we know the business better than anyone, but does that mean we are better at every aspect of it? Delegating means that we can get the input of experts. For example, by hiring a Marketing Manager, we get a new perspective from someone who is an expert in that area of business.
Do I have to take on employees?
For a small business owner, the prospect of having employees can be more daunting than having a never-ending workload. It brings with it new challenges, with new skills to master. However, delegating doesn’t necessarily mean employing. It can simply mean outsourcing.
Outsourcing or sub-contracting is a way of delegating without the same level of commitment as employing someone. In fact, outsourcing to others is a relatively risk free, stress free, way of reducing a workload. These days, there is no need to meet the person you delegate to face-to-face. With video calls, the ability to call people across the world and less language barriers, you can outsource work to just about anyone, anywhere. There are a whole host of websites where you can find talent in many forms from VAs to marketing experts.
What is stopping you from delegating?
As with everything it’s often a fear of something that stops us moving forward. This can be seen with a reluctance to delegate. You may recognise one of these in yourself.
Fear of failure
You may be worrying about what might go wrong if you delegate parts of your business to someone else. This is a justified fear. Afterall, you have built this business and it’s important to you. Handing the responsibility to someone else is scary but is necessary to grow the business. Manage your fears by looking at what could go right instead of wrong and also by putting in place some strategies to help overcome any potential errors.
I know it best
A belief that no-one can do it as well as you can be a barrier to delegating. While this might be true to start with, it won’t take long for someone to learn what they need to know and when you spread yourself too thinly, you end up making mistakes that someone entirely focused on the task may not.
I like doing it
There might be parts of your workload that you really love and don’t want to let go of. That’s OK. You don’t have to delegate everything. Take what you’re good at and what you enjoy and start the other end. Think about the bits you really don’t enjoy that will no longer be on your todo list.
6 steps for successful delegation
Now you know what delegation is and what might be holding you back, here are some practical steps to help you take the leap.
1. Let go
One of the hardest things, as I’ve already alluded to, is actually starting the process of delegating to others. By default, entrepreneurs are so, because we are independent. Sometimes the thought of handing things over to someone else is not easy and we tend to cling to certain tasks, sometimes at the detriment of our business. Looking at the reasons you might have put off outsourcing so far, is key to overcoming them, letting go and using delegation as a way to expand your business.
2. Identify the best tasks to delegate
Start small. Don’t delegate too much too quickly. You need to test the waters and see what works and what doesn’t. Identify the tasks that you enjoy least, that are easy/low level, or tasks that you are not good at. These are your starting point. Now, which of these tasks are vital to your business and which are less important? Can any of these important tasks be handled by someone else?
3. Find the best delegate
Once you have established the tasks that can be delegated, you need to figure out who to delegate to. Key here is to play to people’s strengths. If you have employees, you will know their strengths, but it may be that you need to either hire someone new or find someone to outsource to. You could even outsource this responsibility to a recruitment agency if this task is causing stress and if it isn’t something you feel confident in doing.
4. Give clear instructions and deadlines
Even if what you are delegating seems obvious to you, make sure you include detailed instructions. Don’t assume someone else has your knowledge. Remember it’s your business and you know more than people that are new to it. Guidelines are helpful and it is good to have milestones and deadlines so that everyone knows what they are working towards. Make sure communication channels are open and you are available when you say you will be.
5. Manage your expectations
This is your business that you’ve built and love so it can be extremely frustrating when you receive work that isn’t up to scratch. Remember there is most likely a learning curve and it may take a few goes to get someone up to the standard you’ve come to expect from yourself. Remain calm, stay patient and allow time for the process to work. People need to settle into a role, learn your way of working and it might take time to find the right person.
6. Build a positive relationship
Make sure the person working for you feels valued and appreciated. Allow them to get on with the task you’ve set without being micromanaged. However, make sure communication is easy so they can get in touch if they need to and don’t feel scared to ask questions if they need clarification. Give regular feedback focusing on what they have done well, as well as what needs to be improved. Even negative feedback can be framed in a way that is positive. A good technique for this is the feedback sandwich technique. Someone who feels that they are trusted and respected will work harder for you.
7. Evaluate what’s working
Delegation is a learning process for you and the people who work for you. Make sure you evaluate your own methods, get feedback from delegates and analyse what is working. Delegation is no use if the tasks you are delegating are not the right ones, or if they are not being done effectively.
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