Do Less If You Want to Grow More | The Power of DelegatingJul 26, 2023
As a long-time business owner, I have often found that “too busy” seems like a permanent feature of life for all business owners. We’re responsible for leading our company, but we also likely wear a few too many hats. I know I have (and probably still do!)
What would happen tomorrow if you blocked out 25% of each day to focus on intentional business development? Or even 10%?
Would your business grind to a halt without your hands-on involvement?
This is a personal challenge for most owner-led businesses. And it is what I have encountered over the last 20 years working with owners of B2B businesses. In fact - it is a challenge I have had to deal with during that time. Owners have not found a way to focus on their business because they don’t have the people and processes established to replace themselves in key roles - or at least that’s what they think.
Paradoxically, there are times when the path to success lies in deliberately slowing down as an owner. Delegation may feel like a luxury, but it’s a priority. The way to long-term success lies in you doing less so that you can do it really well.
This is something that I’ve focused on when helping owners figure out how to get their sales growing again - with healthy margins and increased differentiation in their markets. I like to think of it as four steps to creating owner leverage:
- Treating Delegation as a Priority
- Identify What Keeps You From Delegating
- Clearing the Path for Delegation
- Decide What You Will Delegate First
1. Treating Delegation as a Priority
Delegation is rarely convenient. As any seasoned leader will tell you, productivity can be easily lost before the benefit of the new process or approach is realized. No wonder it’s not generally at the top of our “Things I’d Like to Do Today.”
Still, delegation needs to be a consistent priority for two reasons:
- Your time + expertise is MOST valuable when you can focus on strategic decision-making, innovation, and long-term growth.
- The task you are delegating might be done better in the hands of someone who is a better fit – either in personality or expertise.
So, to the owner needing help prioritizing delegation, I challenge you: what could you do to grow the business with an extra 10 hours a week on your calendar?
This doesn’t need to be wishful thinking. It’s a mindset problem.
2. Identify What Keeps You From Delegating
Even when you want to delegate and are willing to make it a priority, a few other issues may crop up.
Lack of Trust
Many business owners struggle to delegate due to fear of losing control. They may believe no one else has the grit, expertise, or familiarity to maintain quality. Even if you’re right about your team now, this stifles the growth and potential of team members. You might not trust them now, but there’s no way around becoming the leader your business needs.
Every business owner I know wears multiple hats in the early stages of their venture. It may be necessary initially, but over-commitment spreads too thin and reduces the capacity to focus on core business aspects. You’re doing too much, and it keeps you from doing it as well as you’d like.
Unclear Systems and Processes
The need for well-defined systems and processes can make it challenging to delegate effectively. When tasks need more clarity or documentation for operating procedures, handing them off to others without constant supervision becomes difficult.
3. Clearing the Path for Delegation
Now to the more important question – what practical steps can I take to make delegation happen? What are steps 1 and 2 that get me to 3 and 4?
1. Identify Easily Repeatable Areas for Delegation
What are you still doing that someone else could manage with less instruction? Start analyzing your workload and identifying tasks you can entrust to others. Look for people with specific skills that move this task further into your strengths.
2. Balance Learning and Doing
Many tasks that slow you down have a common thread: you had to learn on the fly and needed more time to learn the best way to do something. If you’re constantly frustrated with a process or task not being efficient, talk to specialists. Revisit this foundational knowledge and shorten your learning curve. Better yet, equip your newly delegated team member with the time and resources to become the expert you need.
3. Document and Streamline Processes
A clearly outlined process is vital if you want someone to learn it well. This avoids the places where details may otherwise fall through the cracks. It also provides accountability for someone to understand where they go wrong as they learn.
Another benefit of documented processes – it’s a fantastic way to introduce efficiency. Any time you document your processes, you see steps that could be helped by better tools, automation, or other strategies to do things faster, cheaper, or more reliably.
4. Delegate in Increments
Even though delegation may be unpleasant at times, don’t rush. Map out the whole trajectory, then break it down into smaller handoffs. Starting with less critical tasks can help build trust and confidence in your team member's abilities. Gradually increase the complexity and significance of delegated tasks as trust is established. Maintain open lines of communication and provide constructive feedback to ensure continuous improvement.
5. Champion Support, Not Criticism
Effective delegation involves empowering individuals to take ownership, make decisions, and exercise autonomy. Your team is more likely to work with a sense of ownership if they have some actual ownership. Offer support, resources, and regular check-ins to ensure success.
6. Measure Your Delegation Effectiveness
Think about how you will measure how effective your delegation initiative has been. If you're a manager - what specific tasks have you handed off? How much time has it given you back? This doesn't have to be a five-decimal-places exact accounting - but you should be able to say "I used to do X task every Monday morning, and now Larry does it instead - saving me 2 hours."
7. Learn from the Delegation Process
As you delegate more tasks and responsibilities, reflect on the experience. Identify improvement areas, evaluate the delegation process's effectiveness, and adjust accordingly. This isn’t just a good step. It’s an essential step in the right direction. You’re working on making your business more efficient and effective.
4. So, What Will You Delegate First?
This post has focused on the “why” and “how” of delegation, but now the “what” is up to you.
Is it sales? Is it marketing? Is it accounting? Is it customer service?
Pick an area to begin and start building up the people around you to become the team members you need them to be. Do this successfully, and you’ll find yourself becoming the owner your business requires you to be.
Embrace the art of effective delegation and watch your business flourish.
At Value Prop, we help owner-led businesses take the guesswork out of revenue growth. Whether you’re on a revenue plateau or losing ground, we help you analyze your business like the revenue-generating system it’s supposed to be. You can learn more about our process here.