How to Master the Art of Delegation

How to Master the Art of Delegation

Small business owners often struggle with delegation, but handing over control can be vital for business growth. Here's Marianne Page's guide on how to delegate successfully.

By Marianne Page

There’s no growth without delegation, yet many small business owners fail to delegate because they either don’t trust their new hire with any responsibility, or because they’re concerned that no one can complete a task as well as they can. If this sounds like you, then it's time to master the art of delegation.

How to delegate successfully

You’ll have your ‘to do’ list somewhere. Separate this out into:

1. Tasks that only you can do
2. Tasks that your team can do (or that you can train your team to do) 
3. Tasks that don’t actually contribute to the growth or success of your business at all (these we shall ditch) 

Then ask yourself these three key questions:

1. What exactly are you delegating?
Be very clear about the scope of the task you are delegating. This includes where it starts and ends, what’s included and what isn’t.

2. Why are you delegating?
Understand in your own mind why you’re delegating this particular task.

3. Who are you going to delegate to? 
Is there someone in your team who would relish the challenge of this task, or has a natural aptitude? Maybe it’s time to hire a new team member? Or perhaps you will need to outsource to an expert.

Once you've answered the above, it's time to focus on the following steps:

1. Meet with the person and explain that you'd like to delegate a piece of work to them. Explain what the job is and why the task is being delegated. Explain why it's being delegated specifically to them. Make sure that they understand its importance and how it fits into the grand scheme of the business. Tell them the results you expect.

2. Unless you have strict procedures for this particular task, tell them that you’re happy for them to complete the task any way they want, as long as it's done well and it's completed on time. If the task is tricky or involves using particular software, consider creating a ‘How to’ document or screen recording so that your employee has something to refer back to. 

3. Even if you are confident that they have the skills to complete the task, walk them through it again, or better still, ask them to walk through the basic procedure for you. This gives you the opportunity to check their knowledge, and gives them the chance to ask questions and double check the standards you expect.

4. Set aside time to train them properly and make sure that they have all of the resources and information they need to do the job to a high standard. This may need to include passwords, software tools, budget etc. It's also crucial to make room for the task within their weekly schedule so that their regular work will not suffer. 

5. Agree a completion date, and milestones to check progress along the way if the task is not a simple one. This gives you the opportunity to see how they are getting on without looking like you don’t trust them, or that you’re interfering.

6. Explain how success will be measured, and that you will be there to support them if they need help.

7. Support and communicate - there is a difference between delegation and dumping. At the appropriate times, check in with the person to make sure that they are happy with how they are doing, and that they are meeting deadlines.

8. When the task is completed, give them feedback. If they have done the job really well, tell them how pleased you are. Thank them, and if it is appropriate, give them public praise for the great work they have done. If there are aspects that could be improved, explain what they are, and ask their opinion about what they think could have been done differently or better.

Communication is key

The key theme throughout this is communication. Make sure that your team member understands that you are approachable - you’d rather they came to you with a question than guessed and got it wrong. If there are any questions asked along the way, update your training to cover this.

As you build a sense of ownership and a culture of sharing knowledge and open communication in your business, you’ll be surprised at how productivity will improve. You’ll see who’s best at managing their own time and also others in the business and you can earmark people for promotion not just based on how they do their job, but how they function within the wider team.

You will also feel a great sense of pride as you see your team develop, and you’ll be free to focus on growing your business. It’s a win-win.

About the Author

Marianne Page is an author and professional speaker. Her books include 'Process to Profit' and the best selling 'Simple Logical Repeatable'. Marianne has 27 years of experience working with McDonald’s under her belt, and a further ten helping small businesses to scale up and grow. Marianne's award-winning McDonald’s experience makes her one of the world’s most qualified experts on the practicalities of implementing simple, logical and repeatable systems.