Delegating is a critical skill that most SME owners overlook – often at their own peril. By taking a proactive approach and dividing tasks strategically across your organisational chart, you can boost productivity, take on bigger projects and empower your team! We provide a practical action plan…
“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.”
– Ronald Reagan
As an SME owner, you have to don several hats and constantly juggle all the different bits of your business to ensure you are moving in the right direction. But, do you find yourself caught up managing day-to-day activities with no time to take a step back and look at the larger picture? You are not alone! Research suggests that 66 per cent of business owners express that they wish they delegated more.
The reality is that effective delegation is advantageous not just to the business owner, but to the employees and the organisation as a whole. It enables you, as a team, to get more work done and ‘play to your strengths’.
Consider the following fundamental factors:
- Provide detailed instructions.
Make sure that your employee fully understands what needs to be done, what is expected from the job and the timeline it needs to be completed within. More importantly, the employee needs to be fully comfortable doing the job. It is also a good idea to explain how performance will be measured and what the final reward (if any!) will be. This enables your employee to have a clear vision of the project and ensures that you both are on the same page.
- Who to delegate to?
Choose the right person for the job. It is critical that you delegate to an employee who has the skillsets required to manage the job. What’s more significant is that the employee should be fully motivated to do the job. This doesn’t mean that you repeatedly delegate to a select number of trusted people; try to spread the tasks across the organisational chart so that all your staff members are actively involved in the process.
In fact, many businesses even go as far as letting their employees come forward when there is a project they would really like to take on. This encourages open communication, boosts employee self-esteem and takes some load off the manager’s shoulders.
- Don’t be afraid of getting different results!
This is, perhaps, the biggest trouble spot when it comes to delegation. Business owners and managers often want to do everything themselves in order to get the final job done perfectly. But, ask yourself – does this job need to be done flawlessly, or does this job need to be done? An employee might do things differently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the job won’t be done right.
If there is ever a situation when you need to intervene, try to use a ‘teaching’ approach, where you guide your employees in the right direction rather than taking things in your own hands. An article on www.hbr.org explains further: “As you give more responsibility and autonomy to your most capable direct reports, focus your conversation less on how they should approach a task and more on the what and why. For example, why is the initiative important? What’s the scope of the task and what is their level of authority: to make the decision or bring options and a recommendation to you for approval? What are the key issues they need to address and resolve? Who are the people in other groups they need to collaborate along the way? What are the key milestones and check-in points and what are your expectations for communication during the course of the initiative?”
Remember to avoid micromanagement as this defeats the whole purpose of delegating.
- Reward good performance.
This is a classic case of positive reinforcement – applauding an employee’s successful completion of a task will encourage them to work to the same level of efficiency next time round. In addition to giving your employee a sense of accomplishment, it is a great way to show your team that you are not afraid to give credit where it is truly deserved.
- 5. Offer regular Training.
Establishing a continuous development model with intensive training modules will help employees build new skills and enhance existing capabilities. These sessions will help employees think in a way that is aligned with the overall vision of the business. Implementing a mentorship programme is another area that will give employees a ‘third-person’ perspective of the work and boost their confidence.
- Know when to delegate.
Follow the ‘70 per cent rule of delegation’ – if you think an employee can get the job done 70 per cent as well as you can, then it’s safe to delegate. “This 70 per cent performance standard allows the CEO to aggressively move tasks to team members and have them perform the tasks at an acceptable level. Clearly there are some tasks that require a 100 per cent performance level. The CEO will choose not to delegate these tasks. They could be transferred but with extensive support and training. In addition, one-on-one oversight may be required,” Jim Schleckser explains in an article on Inc.com.
- Give yourself adequate time.
Effective delegation requires mutual understanding and trust between the organisational team. Building confidence takes a lot of time, so don’t fret if you don’t become an expert at delegating straightaway. Start by delegating tasks on a trial basis and see how it works within your company. Another recommended practice is setting milestones or checkpoints along the way, which keeps you in control of the project while not micromanaging every minute detail.
If your answer to most of these questions was ‘no’, it is time to start delegating tasks to your employees and subordinates.
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Rushika Bhatia Editor
Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.