Even if you’re the world’s greatest, most efficient, and most organized entrepreneur, you’re still up against the tyranny of time. To put it bluntly, if you’re running a successful business (or making every effort to do so), you can’t do everything yourself. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and even if there were, you’d burn yourself out. At a certain point, it’s time to hire an employee or two and delegate some tasks.
It sounds like an easy and appealing proposition: just give tasks to the competent employees you’ve hired, and they’ll take care of them. In practice, however, effective delegation is often a challenge. You want things done your way, on your timetable, up to your standards, and with your desired outcomes. The old saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself” may loop in your head as you apprehensively turn the reins of any project over to an employee, no matter how much you trust him or her.
The truth is, delegation is something most of us improve upon. How can we do that? Here are six tips for becoming better at delegating.
- Know what you’re good at — and hire people who are good at other things.
Instead of doubling up and leaving gaps in your company’s skills, hire people whose strengths complement yours. Then, trust them to use their knowledge and abilities to do a good job for you. You’ll be more comfortable assigning tasks if you have complete confidence in the person’s ability to do them well!
- Be clear about your desired outcome.
What’s your ideal result of a particular project? Even if we know what it is, we don’t always do an effective job of communicating it to the person we’ve entrusted with that project. It’s something many of us struggle with, but when you make a concerted effort to explain your expectations, you provide a clear target for your employee to hit. We often hear about Stephen Covey’s sage advice, “Begin with the end in mind.” When you give that same advantage to your employee, he or she is more likely to achieve an outcome that fits your expectations.
- Check for understanding.
When you do delegate tasks, they’re not entirely off your plate. Check in with your employees periodically to see how things are progressing and make sure they understand your expectations, the allotted time frame, and the steps necessary to complete the task. Offer guidance when it’s needed and make sure that your employees know to ask for help when it’s needed, but as always, take great care not to micromanage.
- Train when necessary.
Many times, an employee’s skills may need a little refining, shaping, or updating. Other times, they just need to learn shortcuts and more efficient ways to get things done. If you’re able to teach an employee how to do a job better, it’s worth your time to do so. Or, if your employee is able and willing to learn new skills that you can’t teach, invest in training. Either way, when you offer training, the projects you delegate in the future will usually be completed better and more efficiently, plus you’ll have more confidence and less anxiety about your anticipated outcomes.
- Be patient.
This holds especially true when it comes to new employees: give them time to learn how to do things your way. It will take a while for them to accrue the specific organizational knowledge to do things exactly to spec, and they may not have the same internal sense of urgency that you have. However, remind yourself that you hired them because they were the best person for the job. Give them the space and the time, and they’ll shine.
- Provide useful feedback.
A delegated job isn’t over when an employee is finished with the assigned tasks. Instead, it’s finished when they’ve received feedback on their performance. As the person in charge, it’s your job to provide that feedback. Explain what was done well, what might be improved upon the next time, and ask how they felt about the assignment. Most importantly, show appreciation and gratitude for a job well done.