Top tips for delegating effectively

Business owners are notoriously bad at letting go – but new research suggests that entrepreneurs really are spreading themselves too thin.

A survey from Bibby Financial Services found that a staggering 65 per cent of business owners take responsibility for cleaning tasks around their office, while almost 40 per cent make their own deliveries or collections.

While small businesses by nature require owners to take responsibility for a range of facets of their organisation, there is real evidence to suggest that business owners are taking on too many tasks – and thereby preventing themselves from doing important, revenue-generating long-term work.

Delegation is key if you are to manage your small business effectively. Here are some top tips to help you delegate efficiently.

1. Accept that you cann’t do everything

Recognising when you can’t complete every task effectively is one of the most important steps towards efficient management. At some point in the life of your business it will become impractical for you to do everything yourself – and at this point delegation will become imperative if your business is to fulfil its potential.

It is also important to understand which tasks you should delegate. Generally speaking, the idea is to pass on tasks which others can do, leaving you free to concentrate on things that actually require your attention. If you are doing the cleaning while someone else searches for new leads, something is probably wrong.

2. Choose the right person for the job

Matching a task to an individual or organisation is very important. If you want to get the best possible results, you need to consider who it is that you will entrust with the task. This is particularly important if you are trying to build lasting relationships with third party providers. Where possible, try to speak to other businesses that have dealt with the potential provider before signing a contract.

3. Understand outsourcing

As a small business owner, it may well be beyond your financial abilities to hire members of staff. Indeed, it may be that you do not yet need to hire someone – but you need help with specific tasks. In these circumstances, outsourcing might well be the right choice. Rather than hiring an employee, find freelancers or existing organisations that specialise in the task you need completing.

4. Define your goals

Before you begin, it is vital that you have a firm idea of what you want to achieve. If you don’t know, or can’t articulate what you need, you can’t expect the person to whom you are delegating to complete the task to your satisfaction. Make sure that your goals are properly defined, and that you communicate them as clearly as you can. Spending a bit of time on this in advance will help to minimise problems later on.

5. Be prepared to offer support…

Delegating isn’t simply a case of washing your hands of a task. You should recognise that you may need to provide support in order for the task to be completed properly, particularly if the work you do is relatively specialised. Be prepared to guide and support the individuals or organisations to whom you delegate.

6. …but avoid micromanagement

At the same time, however, it is important that you avoid micromanaging. Remember that you are interested not in process but in results. Provided that the work gets done, there is no necessity for you to demand constant updates. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep abreast of progress – but you should be wary of the business owner’s traditional inability to let go.

7. Reward success

This is particularly important if you are hiring an employee. You should make sure that achievement is recognised and rewarded. When a task is completed well, make sure that the individual understands that their help has been noticed. At the same time, of course, you should not be afraid to point out when things go wrong, and to consider ways in which you can prevent mistakes happening again.

8. Identify suitable tasks

Finally, it is important to recognise which tasks are suitable for delegation. Generally speaking, it is preferable to delegate tasks that others are as better qualified than you to do. Alternatively, you might delegate day-to-day administrative tasks in order to free up your own time and allow you to concentrate on revenue-generating activities. You need to carry out a broad cost-benefit analysis. Is the cost of delegation outweighed by the benefits? Of course, this can be an imprecise and difficult art to master, particularly if you are delegating in order to carry out activities that will not yield tangible results for some time.

What are your tips?

We are keen to hear your tips for effective delegation. What works for you and your business? Let us know in the comments!