No small business owner runs their business without appointing someone to help them out on occasion. There is too much for a business owner to do in a growing enterprise. Gallup notes that small business owners who know how to delegate generate better growth for their business. The art of delegation isn’t an innate trait of entrepreneurs, and for a small business owner, a lot of behavioral traits need to be adjusted before commission becomes second nature.
The Inherent Traps That Stop Delegation
As a small business owner, there are so many things that scream against delegation that it can be challenging to trust oneself to delegate specific critical tasks. Most entrepreneurs from the small and medium business category believe that their methods of doing things trump others. For them, the only way to get things done right the first time around is to do it themselves. In some cases, it’s true – no employee can develop a vision for a business, or set in place non-negotiables or a metric for performance measurement. Those are things that only the owner of a company can do.
However, it is an important character trait to realize where delegation is necessary and helpful. Attempting to keep abreast of every challenge the business faces can become overwhelming quickly. Harvard Business Review mentions that the more a leader takes onto himself or herself, the fewer resources become available, and the more likely that he or she will hit the limit of leadership impact. Leadership is not only about knowing when to take the reins of a business but also knowing when to let someone else take over for a while.
Secret 1: Knowing When to Delegate
Most small business owners consider the company they built to be their child. They would much rather die than let someone else run it for a bit. The start of delegation comes from letting go of responsibility and shifting it to someone else. As The Balance SMB notes, effective delegation starts when one decides it’s time to offload some of their workloads on someone else. However, this leads to an even bigger question – the idea of accountability.
When a business owner decides to divest some of the responsibility of a business onto an employee, the responsibility for jobs falls squarely on that employee’s shoulders. They need to be accountable for their actions and what they do in the business’ name while they’re in charge. In such a case, the owners should have an idea of what he or she is willing to let go to an employee and what they prefer to do themselves. High skill-intensive tasks or those that have the most impact on the company’s business would remain with the owner. Less impactful functions that are no less important could remain with competent employees.
Secret 2: Using Skilled Employees to Delegate Important Tasks
While it was mentioned above that the most impactful tasks should remain with the business owner, this isn’t strictly true for all businesses. Depending on the industry, highly skilled and competent staff may exist that can manage a particular job just as well (or sometimes even better) than the owner. It is essential to be a leader, not just a boss. The difference between the two comes from how one delegates tasks. A boss throws unsavory jobs that he or she doesn’t want to do at the employee. A leader delegates tasks based on the strengths of his or her employees.
Inc. raises the point that employers that delegate along these lines need to be consistent in how the delegate tasks as well, since giving certain types of functions to a single employee is likely to increase their skill with that type of action. Delegation of this type can benefit the business by having a unique individual that is highly skilled in a particular area.
Secret 3: Incorporating Technology Into Delegation
Small businesses are sometimes even more challenging to manage in terms of documentation than larger ones. There is usually no standard framework in place for small companies to deal with the movement of data. Sometimes, things get lost, and the ball gets dropped if logistics and management aren’t up to standard. Forbes mentions that, in delegating, a business owner needs to be able to document everything. To this end productivity software is a godsend, since it allows small businesses to keep their records in order.
One of the more popular software options for documentation is Microsoft Visio, which lets businesses produce flowcharts that the company can use as real-time updating solutions for delegation of tasks. There are cheaper options available, and free mind-mapping software serves just as well to give the business the same kind of graphing capabilities that Visio offers, without the attached cost. Additionally, online tools like Asana are useful for companies that have remote workers, or that need a scheduling application built into their software for added accountability and transparency.
Secret 4: Always Enforce Communication
Communication is essential to the delegation for several reasons. Accountability and transparency are the most obvious ones, and setting up regular communication channels can ensure that the owner has knowledge of the status of jobs and tasks within the organization. The Georgia Small Business Development Center raises the point that while communicating what the requirements of a task are is of great importance, keeping channels of communication open during the execution of the job is just as important.
The reason open lines of communication is vital in these situations is that it allows the employee that was delegated the task to seek aid and resources from the business owner. In an ideal arrangement, the employee can get all the required information from the business owner, as well as any extra resources the owner has, and translate that into a final product that will make the client happy. If any issues or questions arise, the employee should be free to pick the owner’s brain about how he or she would have handled the situation and then work with that guidance towards overcoming the issue.
Secret 5: Avoid Micromanaging by Hiring the Right Employees
Delegation frees up the small business owner’s time to deal with other things, but the trap that comes with commissioning a task is that the free time ends up being used to micromanage the delegated employee. Aside from merely defeating the entire purpose of delegation, micromanagement impacts the fabric of the company and erodes the independence of the employee. Entrepreneur states that micromanaging stems from an inability to give up decision-making authority. In dealing with micromanagement, a small business owner needs to have more trust in his or her employees.
Decision-making capacity of an employee should be one of the critical traits that a business owner should look at when hiring an individual. A telltale sign of a micromanager is one who employs workers that aren’t able to critically think about situations and make decisions but are great at following orders. These types of employees would be a disaster if the responsibility for making their own decisions fell on them. To keep away from micromanaging, a small business owner needs to hire staff that demonstrates independent competence and an ability to draw conclusions from information. In such a way, they can defend their decisions if they are ever called to do so, which indirectly makes them far better suited for delegating tasks.
Secret 6: Remember that Trust Goes Both Ways
As a business grows, delegation becomes less of an option and more of a necessity. But along with that delegation comes an innate sense of trusting the employee. Finances, logistics, scheduling, and planning all come with the unspoken understanding that the company entrusts its reputation with the employee responsible for these departments. As with all kinds of trust, this type is reciprocal, and a business owner gets what he or she gives.
Chron points out that some small business managers are afraid to relinquish control of company assets because they don’t trust their employees enough. If an owner is continually checking in on a worker, and calling them up to follow up on routine tasks, eventually the employee will become jaded and leave the company. Delegated employees should be trusted enough to perform on their own. If the type of job is technical, then the owner should provide guidance to the first handful of times as well as supportive feedback. Eventually, though, the employee should retain their independence to make decisions on their own, demonstrating the trust the owner has in the employee and relieving the businessperson of the stress and anxiety attached to the task.
Why Small Business Owners Delegate
Starting a small business usually requires a lot of time and energy. Many small business owners dedicate so much of both of these assets to the company that, when it grows beyond what they can effectively manage, they don’t know how to cope. Delegation is needed for a business to keep growing. Assigning all the work to a single individual can serve to hobble the company, as it can’t evolve past the limits of that one person. Letting go is the key to delegating responsibly. A small business owner shouldn’t attempt to do everything on their own. The smartest owners know that their real business insight comes from finding the employees that will help them realize their vision.
Marie Erhart is a Success Manager at FieldPulse, creators of field service software that lets you run your entire contracting business from a single app. She works with contractors to help them grow their business using best practices.
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