Delegating to your employees – why and how
We all hear about the importance of delegating. It’s a bit like going for regular brisk walks or eating sensibly. We know we should do it. But boy – it’s just not that easy. Part of the trouble is that many of us think we’re pretty skilled in many areas of business. We see ourselves as experienced, grounded, flexible and generally pretty able. It’s not easy passing on tasks to junior members of the Practice, not knowing whether they’ll make as good a job of it as ourselves. And what if we then have to re-do the task that they’ve carried out so inadequately? Wouldn’t it be quicker and more efficient to just do it ourselves? In the short term – maybe. In the long run – rarely.
If you’re a reluctant delegator, don’t worry. You’re not alone. A recent study by Opus Energy showed that a large majority of British business owners aren’t comfortable delegating tasks.
62% of SME owners confess that they check their emails constantly throughout the day. 47% frequently work through the weekend. The result? This misplaced work ethic means that 74% of the SME owners admit that their family and social relationships suffer. So, how would you respond if you were told that efficient, judicious delegating would –
- increase your business productivity?
- allow you more time to spend ‘on’ – rather than ‘in’ – your business?
- give you more time with your family and friends?
- make your staff feel valued, motivate them – increasing your retention rate and cutting your recruitment costs?
What is ‘good delegating’?
Here are five ways to improve your delegating –
- Set an end goal for the task in question
This will help you to decide whether the task has been accomplished. The key to achieving this is to break your end goal into a series of small and simple processes. You can then pick the mini-tasks to delegate, ensuring you don’t burden them with too many tasks at a time.
This will also give you a clear idea of which tasks can be delegated and which ones you should keep for yourself to do. For example, travelling to a conference and staying overnight. You don’t need to make the arrangements. Delegate your travel and accommodation arrangements to a staff member.
But – a project with a tight deadline for a tricky client would be best carried out by you who, after all, knows the client best.
- The Pareto principle
This is the 80/20 rule a term first used to describe how 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to just 20% of the population. More recently, it’s been used to describe how things in life often aren’t distributed evenly. In the case of your Practice responsibilities, you might say that your workload might be 20% of the whole Practice’s workload, yet it’s responsible for 80% of your Practice’s revenue. Your contribution might be low in quantity, but the quality of what you do is critical to the success of the Practice. If you waste your time and expertise carrying out less important tasks, the quality of the outcomes of your 20% might drop.
Of course, the 80% of the tasks certainly need doing. But perhaps, not by you. By delegating them, you’ll relieve the pressure on you, keeping your mind free to focus on the really important 20% that only you can do.
- Categorise your and others’ tasks
Next you need to decide which of the tasks that you’ve been doing should be delegated. For example, you might delegate –
- conducting research
- processing invoices
- chasing debts
- data entry
Of course, here’s where your judgement comes in. You’ll want to carefully select who you’re going to delegate which tasks to. Filing, data entry and processing invoices might be delegated to someone who is organised, precise and good with numbers.
- Provide training
A common excuse given by Practice owners for failing to delegate is that they don’t believe that their employees are capable of doing the job as well as them. So, you need to train them.
In a recent survey conducted by BambooHR, one of the most common reasons given by staff for leaving is insufficiently clear instructions on how to complete a task successfully.
Show your employees that you have faith in them. Take the time to teach them.
- Managing the tasks
Delegating doesn’t mean getting other people to perform tasks and just leaving them to get on with it. To ensure the work is completed quickly and efficiently, you’ll always need to follow up. You have to achieve the delicate balance between micro-managing (standing over them at every step) and making sure they’re progressing efficiently. Your job is to keep your standards high and give them regular constructive feedback as part of your follow-up process. Only in this way, will the quality of their work improve.
Don’t work harder – work smarter
This is the key to delegating. Don’t think of sharing your workload with your Practice employees as a weakness. Look at it as a long-term strategy towards growing your Practice’s efficiency, profitability and employee retention rate.
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