I was amazed when I did a web search for, “Why do executives have so much trouble delegating?” I saw some pretty amazing answers like:
- Stop trying to control everything.
- If someone takes more time than you to do the work, don’t worry about it.
- You don’t have a key person and need one – just hire the right individual.
- If you know you aren’t good at delegating, try this simple step-by-step “how to.”
The pervasive theme seemed to be that the reason for not delegating effectively is YOU; if you do more or less of something, you would be better at it. I say, “NONSENSE.” The way you manage is not the reason you are not delegating as effectively as you’d like. The reason you probably aren’t delegating effectively is that it’s impossible to delegate the myriad of minutia you do.
There is a lot of information that states if you want to determine what needs to be delegated, find a capable person, train them thoroughly, have them be accountable, and overcome your personal issues. That sounds like an executable plan. Wonder why I never thought of that? Hold on! It did!
BUT . . .
- If it was possible to create a full-time job consisting of some of my responsibilities, I probably would have done that by now.
- How does someone delegate a task which takes less than 10 minutes and is done once a week?
- I have hundreds of less-than-10-minute, once-a-week tasks which are combined and are what I label “my job.”
- Sharing my experience, knowledge, and tools in order to enable someone to take over a 10-minute job doesn’t offer a good effort-reward ratio.
- Multitasking comes with the turf for me, but my employees either can’t or are unwilling to.
Delegation isn’t as simple as “be less of a control freak” or “find some help” for entrepreneurs. Their job tasks are extremely varied, and there can be a good deal of detail involved with each task. It is rarely as simplistic as “be less controlling” or “recruit someone to help.” Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here; the fact is you can offload quite a bit of your work, but not by delegating it in the “traditional” way.
Here’s the Half-Retire way to cut your workload:
1st Step: When it comes to delegating, avoid the trap of thinking “WHO” instead of “WHAT.” Believing you can find just the right person and delegation to them will be fairly effortless is not only unrealistic, it’s “lazy thinking.” Many employees perform well, and some don’t. Some of these individuals may already be working at your company. Begin by defining WHAT you want done, and then find WHO can do it.
2nd Step: Start by ensuring there is enough time involved in a task to make delegating it worthwhile. Forget trying to delegate tasks that do not have “time scale.” Determine the minimal amount of time that makes a task worth the effort of delegating, say 5 hours a week, and focus on those.
3rd Step: Take a fresh look at what you do and unbundle. Most work involves a sequence of tasks. Good example: replacing a light bulb takes 15 steps – not one. When you unbundle your job tasks, you will discover portions that can be delegated easily and others that cannot be – your “Picasso Work.” Offload what you can and keep the rest. This will permit your unique genius to shine through the work without the full-time demand.
4th Step: Think similarities or themes rather than specifics to create scale. Invoicing, Accounts Payable and Receivable, Data Entry all are easily identifiable as “accounting” functions but look more closely to see if fragments of Job A have similarities to fragments of Job B. If you are diligent in finding skill commonalities, you will be able to create the economies of scale effective delegation requires.
5th Step: Set up the person you will be delegating to for success by ensuring objectives and the processes used to achieve them are clear. Invest in training. It’s challenging to take the time, but it’s worth it. I had a firestorm a few years back. We had to quickly train 20 telemarketers in the Philippines or risk project failure. There was no time for an extended learning curve. I pulled an all-nighter but was able to create a video-based training program that not only resulted in project success but helped train all new staff for the next ten years. It always feels like you are making an excessive investment in order to train people, but if you institutionalize the knowledge, you are building training systems you can use for a long time to come.
Hopefully, this helps clear the air on the topic of delegation. Some of the smartest, most industrious people I have met are business owners. The theory that they are not effective at delegating because of some personal lack is absurd. Many owners have given up on delegating and keep accepting more and more work. Is it any wonder that owners are stressing out, giving up, or worse?