Logo - Business Development Bank of Canada - BDC

9 steps for delegating work more effectively

3-minute read

A major pitfall for many growing businesses is the owner’s inability to let go and delegate responsibility to employees. In effect, the limitations of the entrepreneur become the limitations of the business.

There’s no doubt it’s challenging to strike the right balance between maintaining control over your business and delegating to employees or contractors. But your refusal to hand over responsibility can take a devastating toll on business results, employee engagement and your personal life.

Here are 9 steps to help you delegate tasks so you can focus on growing your business.

1. Take an objective look at your workload

Analyze what you’re doing with your days by keeping a diary of your time for two weeks. How much time is dedicated to strategic activities and how much to day-to-day firefighting? Are there important activities and projects you’re putting off? Now, consider which tasks could be performed by someone else to free you up to perform your highest value activities.

BENEFIT—Identify low-level activities that are eating up your time.

2. Determine where your contribution is most needed

Successful entrepreneurs know their strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps, you’re a whiz at sales and marketing, but are driven crazy by accounting. Why not delegate that and other areas of weakness to employees who are better at it than you?

BENEFIT—Your No. 1 job is to lead. By stepping back and letting others who are better equipped to manage certain areas take some of the load, you’re making your life easier and improving your business’s performance.

3. Identify the best people in the organization

Look for employees within your organization who are ready and able to take on more responsibility. When hiring, make sure to take the time to recruit “A” players who have skills that complement your own. Create clear job descriptions, structured evaluation processes and fair incentives. These will help you achieve your business’s goals.

BENEFIT—Your business will profit from diverse, complementary expertise.

4. Train. Coach. Empower. Trust

Lack of trust is delegation’s worst enemy. With the proper training and coaching, your people can take on more complex tasks. Resist telling yourself you’re the only one who can do things right; or that it will take too long to train someone to do something. The initial time investment will be paid off many times over.

BENEFIT—A sense of making a contribution motivates people and increases their productivity.

5. Share your business strategy with employees

Don’t lead from an ivory tower. Having a shared vision of the future makes work more meaningful for your staff and gives them direction.

BENEFIT—Obtain access to an excellent source of fresh, innovative ideas.

6. Develop repeatable processes

Work to get your business processes out of your head and on to paper. They need to be clear, detailed and teachable.

BENEFIT—You don’t have to be there for things to get done. A process-driven business is also easier to sell if that time comes.

7. Focus on results

Don’t get hung up on seeing staff adopt your working style. You want people who are focused on getting the job done, not worrying about how you would do it or what you’re thinking.

BENEFIT—You might be surprised. Having always done something in a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way.

8. Follow-up without micromanaging

Successful entrepreneurs maintain control as they delegate. Commit to regular one-on-one meetings with key employees and being briefed on key projects to ensure you know where things stand throughout the company.

BENEFIT—You are on top of your business and ready to provide advice and feedback to employees.

9. Encourage your direct reports to delegate

Leadership starts at the top of the organization, but managers in a growing company also need to learn to delegate while keeping themselves and you apprised of developments.

BENEFIT—Now you’re creating a healthy, professional corporate structure that will allow you to scale your company.