If you’ve taken an entrepreneurial step into the business world you’ll no doubt have realised – or soon will – that to remain an expert at what you do you need to enlist some help. The alternative to building a trusty team is becoming a jack-of-all-trades for evermore, realistically spending less time doing what it is you “do” and more time on everything else that working for yourself entails. Recognising that successful businesses owners depend on a support team of specialists is one thing. Being able to loosen your grip on the reigns of your own business and actually take steps to outsource tasks can be quite another, or is it? At the beginning, the thought of giving up a modicum of control likely pushes you way out of your comfort zone, pinging you back to playing small and scrambling around trying to do everything yourself.
If you’re brand new to business then believing that no-one will take as much care with your business as you do could be holding you back And yet, as a forward-thinking business owner you also know that you need to begin taking the tentative steps to find someone who can work alongside you, freeing you of the day-to-day tasks keeping you away from your starring role. Imagine if you will, that one day soon, by recommendation, referral or just plain luck you happen upon someone who does, in fact, feel like a good fit for your business. Someone skilled in areas you are not and whom understands your industry and business needs. Elation! Suddenly a weight has been lifted. Oh, the relief of finding someone you can trust to take off your hands the book-keeping, admin and all those other tasks you dislike (and some you never really understood anyway).
If you’ve been in business a little while perhaps this sounds familiar? If so then maybe what often happens next is too. That is, management by abdication instead of true delegation. In his book, “The E-Myth Revisited”, Michael E. Gerber recounts this as what “every small business owner has done before you, you hand the books over to Harry…and run.” Hand on heart, are you guilty?
After actually finding someone who “gets” you and your business, it can be tempting to go the other way and let go of the reins almost entirely. The relief of giving someone else the challenging, boring and time-consuming tasks to free-up your time and head space can be desperately welcome. However if you proceed to merrily throw tasks at the aforementioned new life-saver, the jubilation will likely be short-lived. Let’s look at the definition of delegation.
What Is Delegation Anyway?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of “to delegate” is “to give a particular job, duty, right, etc. to someone else so that they do it for you”. Business dictionaries pertinently note that the delegator remains responsible for the delegatee’s acts or omissions when carrying out the delegated tasks and that, for me, is key. Yes you absolutely need to delegate and then empower your team (virtual or in-person, freelancer or staff). However throwing tasks at them then with few clear instructions (because it’s their area of expertise, they know what to do) and having no further input is not only un-empowering, it could lead your business of in an unwelcome direction and smacks of abdication (being defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “stop controlling or managing something that you are in charge of”).
YOU are still in charge of your business and you mustn’t forget it. Yes it’s hard starting a business. Every day you’re figuring out new things, it’s a massive learning curve, I know. Having carried the weight of your new business yourself the initial resistance to delegate can fall away when you find someone who appears to be an expert where you are not. But no matter how appealing it is to give away responsibility and decision-making to someone else, unfortunately the buck still stops with you. Without guidance your delagatee is left to make what they think are the right decisions and if you’re not checking in regularly, you’re completely out of control of that aspect of your business.
So, what to do instead? Well going back to the dictionary definition, you’re giving out jobs someone else can do for you. This suggests you have an understanding of said job. Of course you don’t need to know the absolute minutia of every aspect especially if it’s a part of your business that doesn’t fall within your specialist area. However you do need to know why that task needs doing, what the desired outcome is along with the potential outcome of not doing it (or not doing it correctly/on-brand). Empowering another is not simply allowing them to take control in your absence but sufficiently equipping them to make the right choices or actions based on your brief.
You need to get out of your comfort zone once again and get clear on the tasks you are outsourcing. It’s your responsibility to get educated in all areas of business and get straight in your own mind how to measure or keep track of those tasks and their outcomes. Absolutely use your new, God-sent, right-hand (wo)man to help gain clarity on the processes and systems. However ultimately you must oversee your own business structures even if you don’t implement them yourself. Get straight in your own mind what is required then put together clear instructions for the delegated tasks. Even if you’re collaborating or consulting (rather than giving direct instruction) your brief still needs to have parameters within which to operate. Don’t forget to sense-check your instructions have been received as intended and then check-in regularly, especially at the beginning.
When you get delegation right, you truly can be free to work in your zone of genius and grow a flourishing business.
NB This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post