There is a massive difference between management, entrepreneurship and leadership. Unfortunately, since these words are much more common these days, people often times confuse them with each other. But none are mutually exclusive to the other. You can be a successful manager or a successful entrepreneur and be a bad or mediocre leader. Leadership is not defined by production or revenue, but by your ability to develop people and drive a business forward in the long term. One of the greatest struggles of any entrepreneur transitioning into leadership, especially as their business grows, is the process of delegation.
The inability to delegate is one of the most common things holding back young leaders, executives and business owners from scaling their influence and reaching their goals.
As a small business owner myself, this was one of my toughest hurdles early on. Also, as a consultant and leadership coach, it’s something I teach on regularly. My hopes are that this will be your one-stop-shop for learning the process of delegation in a practical, step by step way.
Step 1: Recruiting
You can be a master of delegation, but if you’ve got the wrong people on your team, you won’t get anywhere. The first step to proper delegation starts long before you actually begin to delegate. It starts during your hiring process.
This can be difficult, especially for small business owners who need people right away, but you will learn over time: it costs 3 times as much to hire the wrong person than it does to wait for the right person.
Whether it’s your dishwasher, front desk clerk, janitor or highly paid marketing executive, I think everyone needs at least 2 to 3 interviews before being hired. If you’ve done the work to identify your companies’ mission, values, and culture, you need to make sure to find someone that fits. Not only should they fit, but they have to be eligible for the specific position you are hiring for.
Recruiting for a position within your company is much like dating, and you wouldn’t get into a committed, long term relationship after just one date (at least I hope!). This person will hopefully be with you a long time, and is a financial investment, so I recommend that he or she meets with other leaders within your company prior to being hired as well.
Lastly, prior to hiring them, make sure the preexisting salary or wages for the role fit the prospects needs. I highly recommend not hiring anyone who isn’t comfortable with their pay, because this is often times a means to an end. They will take the first job that pays what their goal salary is and will use your position as a filler.
If you find they fit the mission, values and culture – if their resume, education and experience align with the position – and if the pay is what they are looking for, then bring them on the team!
Step 2: Personal Audit
Once you’ve built your ideal team (even if it’s one other person), it’s time to do a personal audit. Self-reflection and self-awareness are not only vital to maturity and emotional intelligence, but they are crucial to your development as a leader. I recommend doing one, if not all, of these three things:
- Journal for 15 minutes at the beginning or end of each day and reflect on how you spend your time (see my previous episodes to learn about “time budgeting”)
- Journal once a week for 1 hour and reflect on how you spend your time. Think about what needs to change in order for your role as the leader to progress
- Journal at least once a month for 2-3 hours and identify the progress, or lack thereof, that you and your company are making. Identify what is working and what isn’t, then begin to strategize how you will make necessary changes
Step 3: Create your to-don’t list
Whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly or all three – you should begin to recognize the things that are taking up your time that aren’t necessarily a high priority. Maybe at one point they were, but as you or your company have grown, you’ve taken on higher level responsibilities and these need to go. Once you know what these things are, write them down on your “to-don’t” list, and let’s move onto Step 4.
Step 4: Eliminate, Automate and Delegate
You’ll want to address your to-don’t list in this order, so whatever can’t be automated or eliminated is what gets delegated.
What can I eliminate?
You may have to have a quick conversation with your boss, coworker or spouse before you ultimately quit, but these are the things that if they didn’t ever get done again, would anything negatively change? If the answer is no, then you can just stop. This act can add a few minutes back to your day, which can add up over time.
What can I automate?
There are plenty of apps, virtual assistants or services out there that automate plenty of roles for very cheap, if not free. In the most practical way for me to explain this, ask yourself, “what am I doing that an affordable robot can probably do?”. Once you identify a few things, simply Google, “how to automate ________”.
What can I delegate?
Everything left on your list needs to be delegated at this point.
Step 5: Document your processes
We call this “SOP’s” in the business world, or Standard Operating Procedures – which is just a fancy technical phrase for how you do what you do as well and as consistent as you do it.
In my opinion, this is one of the most boring, but most necessary parts of delegation. You can be an incredible teacher physically and verbally, but if your people don’t have any documentation to reference later on, then your processes and procedures will quickly get diluted.
Consistency is key, so take the time to get alone with a large cup of coffee and no distractions and document the step by step processes behind whatever roles or responsibilities you want to delegate. Then make sure to save this documentation somewhere that it is quickly and easily accessible.
Step 6: Identify the most competent person on your team as it relates to this role (and give them the documentation)
Even in businesses or teams with just a few people, there is often a hierarchy. Whether that’s based off of titles, talent or time with the company, you often times know who your best people are from top to bottom.
Depending on whatever the role or responsibility is that you are delegating, choose the most highly competent person in that area to take it. John Maxwell says if you think someone can do something 80% as well as you or better, then give it to them. Craig Groeschel likes the 60% rule. Since I’m a fan of happy mediums, my rule of thumb is 70%. Once you’ve decided, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are in. Of course, we want to assume that our employees or teammates are in for whatever we decide to give them, but that’s not always the case.
Once they’ve committed to taking on this new responsibility – then step 6 is done
Step 7: Perform the work with them (demonstration)
Now you’ve identified what you’re going to delegate, you’ve documented how it’s done, and you’ve chosen your person. Now you just need to sit down with them, after they read through the SOP, and do it with them. Explain to them the minor details of how you do it that may not have been thoroughly explained in your manual.
Step 8: Let them perform the work with you there (coaching)
Once you’ve gone through it with them and they’ve watched you do it, then it’s time to let them do it while you watch. Make sure to give them real-time feedback and let them know how they can improve. Real-time feedback is crucial because if you don’t correct them right away, while you are sitting with them, then they will think they are performing at the highest level and will always do it that way. Let them master how you’ve taught it before they begin to put their own spin on whatever it is.
Step 9: Identify if they’ve reached your 70% + threshold, and if so, let them have it
This step speaks for itself. If they’ve proven their performance to be at least 70% as well as yours is with signs of growth, then let them have it!
Step 10: Teach them steps 1-9 so they can begin to develop leaders too
After you’ve helped develop them into this new role, it’s easy to think that your work as a leader is done. But leadership doesn’t stop there. Our job is to also develop other leaders, so make sure that he or she understands the 9 steps you took to teach them. Feel free to give them this teaching!
After reading or listening through these steps, you might find yourself less encouraged to begin delegating from all the perceived work it takes. You might feel more inclined to just keep doing all of the work yourself. But keep in mind, leadership is an investment, and by learning to delegate, you are going to free up your time and energy in the long run, and empower others to begin performing at a high level – which is the ultimate purpose of leadership.