Most small business owners inevitably reach a point where they’re overloaded. As their business grows, more and more tasks arise and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. We all know the answer to this conundrum.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, and doing so means handing over significant tasks and a great deal of trust to other people. What if they don’t work as hard as you do? What if they’re not as efficient as you are? As detailed? As consistent? Well, the short answer is, if that’s the case, you haven’t hired the right person!
In reality, if your employee is skilled and well trained, they’re likely to do the task better than you would over the long run. But, in order for that to occur, you have to train them to take over. And, in doing so, you have to train yourself to let go. This can be a challenging process, but I’m going to share with you a practical, step-by-step guide to delegating that will help.
Four Step Process to Delegating
Step 1: They watch you do it.
Have a job-shadowing day. Or several. It’s exactly as it sounds. Do the task you intend to hand off while your employee watches. Encourage your employee to take notes throughout the process and ask questions if appropriate. Document as much as possible by text, or even video and voice recordings, so that they have something to look back on. If the nature of the task makes asking questions during the process impossible (e.g. conducting hiring interviews), then be sure to schedule some time for a debrief once the task is complete.
Pro Tip: Provide as much context as possible.
It’s always helpful to know why something is being done in a certain way – or, for that matter –being done at all. When I was training a new HR direction, I could have just told her to go out and hire some people. Instead, I explained our business strategy, our vision, our core values, and how important it was to us to have the right people in the right positions. I gave her a vision of what we were trying to accomplish, and a sense of her role within it.
Step 2: They do it, you watch.
Once your employee is confident that they understand the role, switch places. Shadow them while they perform the task. Take notes on what they’re doing and offer prompts if and when appropriate. Again, it’s important to discuss how it’s going, either during or after the task is complete in order to give feedback and provide an opportunity for the employee to ask questions.
Pro Tip: Resist the urge to jump in and take over.
This stage is going to be just as much of a learning experience for you as it is for them in many aspects. Even though you’re sitting next to them, it’s not your job to assume command if they begin to struggle. And, believe me, it’s hard not to – especially when you yourself are learning to let go and pass on responsibility to others. But, you’re not players on a tag team. They’re the player; you’re the coach.
Step 3: They do it and report back to you.
This is where you start to let go of the reigns. After the shadowing activities above, you should have a strong sense of how your employee will perform in the role. Giving them the independence to do so without watching over their shoulder builds their confidence and communicates your trust in their abilities. But, you also don’t want them to feel alone. By having them report back to you, you’re providing them with support, as well as assurance for yourself that the work is being handled well.
Pro Tip: Discuss what will be reported in advance.
Remember, your employee isn’t a mind reader. If there are particular details you want to know about or check on after the task is complete, outline that ahead of time so your employee can be sure to make note of those particulars. You can create a checklist or specialized report form, or simply highlight key areas of focus and let them construct a summary. Be sure to define when and how often you want reports so that the expectations are clear.
Step 4: They do it.
After watching your employee run the task on their own, getting reports and seeing the results, you can now step back completely from this task and let your employee run the show. This is the scariest part for most entrepreneurs, but if you follow the steps above, it will be a much easier transition. Be sure your employee knows they can always approach you with ideas, questions, and troubleshooting when they need, and be sure to check in from time to time and offer encouragement.
Pro Tip: Embrace your newfound freedom.
This is it. Your opportunity to turn your focus and energy to other things … TAKE IT! A lot of business owners have difficulty transitioning from doer to delegator, getting stuck in the torturous world of micromanagement somewhere along the way. If you’ve trained your employee well, they deserve your trust. Sure, they’ll mess up from time to time, but so would you. And, in those moments, you’ll be stronger because you’ll have double the knowledge and know-how between the two of you to sort it out.
I know it’s scary to let go, but if you want to take your business to the next level, there’s no other way around it. The biggest mistake you can make is to hand a task off to someone without offering sufficient training. It’s a sure-fire recipe for disappointment. By investing a little bit of time into this four-step process for delegating, you’ll give your employee the skills and confidence they need to do the task, while giving yourself the security and peace of mind you need in order to let go.