The ability to delegate effectively is one of the essential management skills you need to master to succeed. It is the only way that you, as a small business owner can increase your available real time and thus free up crucial “create” time. This is a critical requirement for the expansion of your business. In part, if you have to do everything by yourself, your business only grows within your ability to do work and utilize your time. As it expands beyond that limit, it is inevitable that you will become overwhelmed and make mistakes. When this happens, there is a very real risk that your business will contract or, worse still, collapse.
OK!…so the answer is you delegate. However, you can’t delegate effectively if you don’t train the delegate to do what’s required so well, that you don’t even have to think about it. YOU must have NO attention on the task at all.
According to Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and author of What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management
“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.”
If you find your attention on the task you have delegated, there is something wrong with the delegation.
Your aim here is to find out if the person is taking total responsibility for the task, or is trained well enough to do it.
Warning signs when you delegate
So, you’ve done this. You have delegated sales to Bob. He does his job well. Now, he gets a junior, Dave, whom he starts training on the sales presentation. Now, you might see Dave struggling with the sales presentation, and Bob is very busy just at this moment, so you help Dave out. Next, Dave is late for work and it bugs you, so you discipline him about it. Later still, Dave comes to you for advice on how to close a sale.
What you have done is undermined Bob’s authority and subtly corrupted his leadership. Dave is also to blame for even asking you for help in closing the sale; he has violated the delegation principle. You now have more work, less “create time”, and the operation of your business levels off.
How you should delegate
Seeing Dave struggling, you may have stepped in to save the sale. However, the next moment you see Bob, you had better pull him up and address the fact that he has a weakness in his area of responsibility.
Go over the training methods he is using. You may assess that you haven’t trained Bob in how to handle his staff.
Seeing Dave come in late, you should have as soon as possible counseled Bob about discipline and its effects on productivity, etc. and let Bob know that you saw Dave come in late.
Later, when Bob becomes your sales manager and gets five people under his supervision, the temptation for you to do “sales training meetings” can sometimes be almost overwhelming. However, Bob can do them just as well as you can, can’t he? If not, he needs to be trained. So now you do one for him and show him how it’s done. Then, you let him do one with you observing. You work closely with Bob until he’s at the standard you expect. When he gets there, that’s it. You delegate and step away from this task completely.
What happens when you don’t delegate effectively
The problem is the undermining of the leadership and the undermining of responsibility. If you keep working with the junior staff of one of your subordinates, then he (the subordinate) will cease to take responsibility. The result will be that you’ll wear the problems of his staff and get overloaded again. Any business growth will stagnate.
One of the early steps in overcoming this problem is for you to set up an organizational chart showing the chains of command and how they go together. Violate them and you’ve reduced your expansion.
Anyone who tries to bypass your established chain of command needs bringing into line.
To your success.