Entrepreneurs often start a business as a one-person operation. They become accustomed to handling all the tasks and micromanaging every detail. However, as their businesses grow, they find that they need help, so they begin hiring employees. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs find it difficult to give up the hands-on approach that was instrumental in their success. If you are not delegating tasks to your employees or are not delegating effectively, you could be negatively affecting your business and your employees.
Signs That You Need to Delegate More
Admittedly, it can be difficult to let go of tasks that you have always handled yourself. You may worry that delegating work and/or decisions could need to chaos. However, your operations may already be more chaotic than you realize. Although it might sound counterintuitive, relinquishing a certain amount of control may be just what is needed to restore order. If you notice any of the following signs, you need to consider handing over some of your responsibilities to another.
1. You are showing signs of stress. When you first started your business, you were probably excited to be blazing a new trail, and you may have enjoyed virtually all the tasks that were involved. However, you might have found that your excitement and enjoyment diminished as you became more successful. Tasks that you once considered fun have turned into unpleasant chores, and you no longer greet each new day with optimism, energy and enthusiasm. You may have developed a short temper at work or at home. You may be experiencing sleeplessness, frequent headaches or a stiff neck. It may have become more difficult for you to focus on details or maintain your concentration for more than a few minutes. Stress can lead to inefficiency, and inefficiency can have a direct impact on the success of your business. Furthermore, stress can affect your health and your personal relationships, and problems in either of these areas could also have a negative effect on your business.
2. You spend most of your day handling routine matters. If you think about the days leading up to the launch of your new business, you could probably list a number of contributions that you made. Some of these likely involved routine tasks, but your most important contributions were your creativity and vision. You started with an idea and crafted a strategy to turn it into a viable business. Now that your business is growing, you are finding less time to exercise your creativity or develop an ongoing business strategy. In other words, you so bogged down with mundane chores that you have no time to spend on the very things that got you where you are today.
3. Your employees have become dispirited. You may have hired some exceptional employees, but you have noticed that they have become more interested in quitting time than in being productive. They no longer offer suggestions or volunteer to take on additional responsibilities. Although there could be other issues involved, their lack of interest and support could be caused by your inability to delegate. Most employees want to be productive and provide high-quality work, but they can get frustrated if you constantly redo their work or micromanage every task they perform.
4. You are letting important tasks fall through the cracks. Machines may be able to function 24 hours a day for 365 days without a break, but you are a human. If you are spreading yourself too thin, you could be failing to get enough sleep, eat right or get enough exercise. As a result, you are finding it increasingly difficult to keep track of important tasks that only you know about or that require your personal attention.
5. Your employees are afraid to make even a small decision without consulting you first. Sometimes, a small decision can have serious consequences. For example, your largest customer might call to see if his order could be shipped a day earlier than you promised so that he can satisfy his customer, and your employee may know that the order is already packed. However, if you are not available, your employee may tell the customer that the answer will have to wait until you return. In the meantime, your customer is being pressured by his customer, so he may find the delay frustrating and begin searching for another supplier.
6. You feel that you are the only one who can complete a task correctly. You may avoid training someone else to handle some of your routine chores because you feel it is faster to just do them yourself, or you may worry that an employee might make a mistake that you would not have made. However, if you spend a little time to train an employee, you are freeing yourself from that particular chore forever, and your employee will likely be able to handle the task as quickly as you once he or she has a little practice. Admittedly, employees can make mistakes, but you probably made a few yourself when you were first learning how to complete a task. Mistakes are part of the learning process. When training employees, give them the benefit of your experience by acknowledging your earlier mistakes and teaching them how to avoid them.
How to Delegate Effectively
After investing your time, money and energy in your business, you may feel overly protective about it. Before you can begin to delegate effectively, you may need to examine the entire issue more logically and less emotionally. As you work through your plan, consider whether you are reacting emotionally or thinking logically. Logic will typically allow you to choose the options that are the most beneficial to your business, your employees and yourself.
1. Make a list of all employees. Beside their names, jot down what you have observed about their strengths and weaknesses. For example, you might have noticed that one employee is a math whiz, but his written communications are relatively poor. Another employee might be great when dealing with customers, but she has trouble getting along with her coworkers. You might have an employee who is meticulous when it comes to details, but she often fails to see how the details fit into the overall picture. Be sure to keep this list confidential.
2. Make a list of the tasks you are handling yourself. Prioritize the tasks by the potential impact a mistake could have for your business. An easy way to accomplish this is to give each task a number between one and five; a task rated as a five will have little or no impact on your company, but a task rated as a one could potentially put you out of business.
3. Think about the qualities that are needed to accomplish each task successfully. If necessary, make some notes beside each task.
4. Compare your lists to match tasks with employees having the right skills. It is usually best to start by delegating the tasks that have the smallest potential impact on your business.
5. Create a schedule for training each employee on his or her first task. Keep your schedule realistic, and do not try to delegate too many tasks too quickly. You could find yourself short on time, and this could lead to a frustrated, overwhelmed, improperly trained employee.
6. Discuss your plans with each employee in a one-on-one meeting. Explain the task that you are planning to entrust to them and why you feel they would be a good fit. Assure them that they will receive any training needed. Ask them whether they have any objections to assuming the new responsibility. Tell them the date and time that you have scheduled their training.
7. Once you have scheduled an employee for training, do everything possible to adhere to the schedule. Unless it is unavoidable, do not cancel or postpone the training; your employee could feel that you were not sincere about delegating a task.
An inability to delegate tasks can stunt the growth of your business, and it can increase your rate of employee turnover. Effective delegation can do wonders for your company’s efficiency and the morale of your employees. It can also give you the time to enjoy your current success and plan for your company’s future.
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