“If everything in your company depends on you, it can only grow as large as your personal capacity allows.”
Small-business owners can feel like they’re the only ones capable of bringing their company success and fall into the trap of trying to solve every single problem. While some can recognise and avoid this pitfall through employee delegation, others are more reluctant to let go because of scarce resources or the emotional investment.
When a company hasn’t been around long enough to develop clear roles and reporting systems, communication can turn into a confusing mess. These misunderstandings create delays and mistakes, making matters worse for the owner and limiting business growth.
Ultimately, this lack of delegation can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout for entrepreneurs — two feelings that can prevent leaders from realising their companies’ full potential. Leaders must learn how to share their responsibilities to ensure the success of their business.
Strategies for effective delegation
If everything in your company depends on you, it can only grow as large as your capacity allows. Proper delegation makes it possible to scale beyond your reach. Great leaders wouldn’t have achieved their success level without delegating effectively. To assign responsibility in a scalable way, you must delegate purposefully:
Learn about your people’s interests. You’re likely less productive than you could be because some of your regular tasks drain your energy. When you’re motivated and energised by a job, you can do it twice as fast — the same is true for your employees. If you give them tasks they don’t enjoy, they’re not going to be effective.
Before you delegate, spend time getting to know your team. My company specialises in pharmaceuticals, but our value is our corporate social responsibility commitment (CSR). When getting to know new employees and connecting with seasoned ones, I like to assess how our CSR work resonates with them and ask whether they’d like to have more responsibility in those initiatives. It’s a way to show trust in someone and determine their readiness for additional duties.
You can’t hand off the right tasks if you don’t know what your team members enjoy doing. Build relationships with them and learn about their interests and passions before assigning them tasks.
Uncover your unconscious biases
We make assumptions about people all the time. It’s only natural. It helps us have mental categories, so we’re not processing everyone from a blank slate. But it’s not helpful when we use these categories to assume whether people want to — or can — do specific tasks.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to question your biases and learn to look past them. When you’re delegating, you should ask one question: Does this person have the experience and confidence to take on extra responsibility? Allow that question to guide your decision.
Delegation is an ongoing process. You can’t simply choose a task, find a person to do it and then let it go. That’s a recipe for chaos rather than healthy business growth. As you hand off responsibilities, you’ll want to plan for any necessary follow-ups with your employees and stay open to coaching or making changes.
It’s essential to create clear communication channels — whether in person or digitally — so you can see how people are adapting to their new tasks. Good communication allows you to assess their work, provide constructive feedback and set them up for a successful transition. In cases where a job isn’t a good fit, you can redirect team members to something else.
Whenever I assign a task to an employee, I schedule regular check-ins and use email, direct messaging, in-person and other communication methods. We connect on progress toward project milestones and work together to determine whether they need any additional resources or insight from me.
When you start a small business, you’re driven to create something that can grow and make an impact. But this dream can often drown in the day-to-day work of running your business. If you want to keep your business growing, you have to learn to let go.