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5 questions to ask yourself before delegating

Do you ever ask an employee for something you requested several days earlier and get a puzzled look? Or, get the response: “I didn’t know you wanted it today.” Or, even more baffling the employee tells you: “I don’t know how to do that.” These are the kinds of answers that cause many owners to hesitate when delegating.

Delegation—having someone else perform a task or two to your standards—is essential to the owner’s growth as well as your managers'. So why do so many people struggle with it?

When quizzed about their lack of delegation, owners often respond with answers like:

“It takes too long.”

“I’m not very patient.”

“It’s faster to just do it myself.”

“I have to be sure it is done right.”

“Maybe I don’t trust myself to really delegate.”

Do any of these sound familiar? Occasionally, an owner will have the realization that they aren't confident about delegating—usually from a lack of experience or a full understanding of best practices. Maybe you need a better understanding of what to do and how to do it. Let’s take a look at how to get started. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you delegate:

  • Does your employee have the ability to handle the task? Before delegating a task, make sure your employee has the skillset required to complete it.
  • Are you clear about the knowledge and training needed? Even though you may already know how to complete a task, training your employees and being clear about your expectations will save you more time in the long run.
  • Does your reporting position have all the tools to complete the delegated task? Your expectation has to include this reality. It is pretty easy to see what can happen when your employees are allowed to get in over their heads. Without a clear understanding of how to complete the task, this can lead to a disaster for you and a negative experience for your employees.
  • Have you included a deadline? Not providing a deadline often leads to the dismayed response: “I didn’t know you wanted it today.” The deadline you assign with the delegation must include not just the day but the time as well. “I’ll need this back no later than 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday the 23rd.” That way there are no surprises.
  • Can your employee complete the task by the deadline you established? You cannot expect a direct report to work on the tasks you delegate if there is simply no time.

It is also helpful to check on the progress of the task you assigned out. You want these follow-ups to be a pleasant surprise to your delegatee. Keep follow-up notes in your Daily Time Log and reach out about progress. The staying in touch says, “This is important. Let’s make sure we work together on it.” It is another opportunity to develop your leadership skills. These seemingly simple questions can turn you into a more productive leader. But, it will require some practice. Here’s how you can get started:

First: Write down the tasks you’re doing that you know members of your team can handle.

Second: Use delegation as a way to help your employees grow. Will this task help make your employee utilize their skills?

Third: Talk with your employees and discuss the responsibilities you’d like them to take on, and the standards you have for the way the task should be completed.

Delegating can be scary. It can often feel negative and more time consuming. Why give up a task you know you can do perfectly well? Refusing to hand off tasks can make working ON your business even more of a challenge. Avoiding delegation only means you’re focusing on the day-to-day operations of the business and making more work for yourself. You can leverage your time—and give your employees an opportunity to grow—by getting help from your team.

Steve Edkins

Written by Steve Edkins

Steve Edkins is a Certified Executive EMyth Coach who loves helping business owners "bring back the dream." Steve believes that with a strong foundation in values and culture, business owners can build a business that serves their lives, their customers and their employees. When not working, Steve spends time with his family, reading, running or riding his bike.

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