Delegating the workload is key to business success/ GETTY ROYALTY FREE
Starting a business requires the founder to wear many hats and do most of the work. Even as new people are brought in to join the team and help the company grow, founders are often reluctant to delegate tasks to them in the belief that if they don’t do it themselves it won’t be done properly.
But the workload can soon weigh heavily and unless they learn to delegate and build efficient systems within their business, they put any growth potential, not to mention their own wellbeing, at risk.
The art of delegation is a critical business skill. It minimizes the workload and allows business owners to focus more on creativity. Empowering others in the team to take on crucial tasks also encourages a culture of trust.
However, delegation is one of those words that gets talked about, but in reality, is badly handled or overcomplicated, as Sophie Devonshire, CEO at strategic consultancy The Caffeine Partnership, explains.
“Understanding and consistently delivering delegation is one of the hardest things for an impatient or a brilliant leader; putting the right people against the most relevant tasks and doing it quickly and in a way which motivates and energizes,” she says.
The key, she says, is to consider the casting and identify who will work well together and complement each other on a specific task, and who will make it happen.
“Think about who has the right skills and attitude, who wants it, and who has the time,” says Devonshire. “Make that decision, then give it to them to run with it and make it happen.”
When Vivienne O’Keeffe founded her business, corporate restructuring company V Vortex Holdings, she spent countless hours working alone as she strived to reach her clearly defined end goal.
“I was being all things to all men, and I wasn’t keeping things in perspective at all,” she says.
She admits that she found it overwhelming, until she started communicating more to her team and delegating out tasks.
“Before delegating I had come to the false belief that the steady rise of my success was solely the result of my own efforts,’ says O’Keefe. “However, as a business owner I am not scalable and now know that I cannot be in two places at once. So I mastered what I was good at and I delegated the rest to the team.”
Adrienne Cohen, owner of Silverman Advisory, a business consultancy that works with law firms, believes the key to successful delegation is trust.
“You have to trust your judgment that you’ve employed the right person to do the job you need them to do,” she says. “And that person has to feel they are trusted to do their job, and confident in being able to ask for your help and advice when they need it.”
Effective delegation is also dependent on the right business culture. Netherlands-based change organization AnyChange B.V. is growing rapidly, and its founder Martijn de Zoete faces the challenge of keeping control of that growth while maintaining its values-based culture. He says the most difficult aspect of delegation is being able to trust others to act in alignment with his values, and therefore maintain the values-based organisation that AnyChange is.
He says: “You need the right people to delegate to and an internal mechanism that unites everyone in a collaborative way with the company culture and values. At one stage I had five people capable of doing the job, but only two who could do it with the AnyChange values in mind.”
The solution has been to bring the team together to collectively develop an internal social compass through which things like purpose, impact and values are defined.
A key objective of delegation is to achieve effective time management. Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training (UK), admits that he initially struggled with this, as he felt as though it took longer to tell people what he wanted and then oversee it rather than to do it himself. He quickly realized that it was a mindset that doesn’t work when a company scales, and adapted accordingly.
“A great business leader is one who enables the conditions for a business to run seamlessly, whether they are in the office, or not,” he says. “Digitization has meant we truly live in a global world where business is conducted 24/7, but you cannot be a slave to it. There is more to life than the office and when you enjoy it you are more motivated to be a good leader.”
Delegation is unquestionably one of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially those new to the world of startups. But it is a skill that no founder can afford to underestimate the value and importance of.
“The more of a leadership role you have, the more you need to work out what you control and what you absolutely mustn’t,” adds Sophie Devonshire. “Give people clear parameters around where they need to go with their work and, if they operate in a culture where the values and principles of the organization are clear, you can let go, or at least hold the reins a little less nervously.”