As entrepreneurs, we often get used to doing everything ourselves instead of learning to manage and delegate. In the early days of my business I had to be the sales person, bookkeeper, and intern rolled into one. But to get to the million-dollar revenue mark and beyond, it’s less about multitasking and more about leading a team. This means developing a host of leadership and management skills—chief among them, learning to delegate.
As a recovering perfectionist, I know how hard it is to hand over control. I know from interviewing dozens of female entrepreneurs that delegating is often our Achilles’ heel. My friend Carrie Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media, a successful social media agency with twenty full-time employees that has been on the Crain’s “Best Places to Work” list six years in a row, says learning to delegate was one of the hardest and most important things she needed to master to grow her business. Carrie says, “One of the big things that I needed to do as a leader was eliminate the idea that I am the only person with the ‘magic dust’ that makes my company run. I used to insist on being in every new business meeting, as well as every client’s annual planning—because I and only I could possibly come up with the brilliant idea that would make them millions! I found that this was not only unsustainable, but it diminished the credibility of the great team I had built, and it made my company unscalable.”
I have had so many conversations with women about the tools and shortcuts I am using (who isn’t looking to free up a little time?) and pride myself on being a kind of Delegation Ninja. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I think I am above doing any task, no matter how big or small. In fact there are many things I actually enjoy doing that I have to stop myself from doing, because I know that it’s not the best use of my time. For example, I love making Excel spreadsheets. I could spend hours playing with fonts and giving the columns different-colored headers and clicking on the magic “wrap text” function. But I don’t allow myself to indulge in this pastime, or not until I’ve done all the other things that need my attention. Mainly I have my executive assistant set up these spreadsheets for me. I check them over, and sometimes – dork spoiler alert – I can put on the finishing touches.
The risk of not learning delegation skills is working harder but not smarter, and in some cases burning out. Learning to hand off responsibility is one of the antidotes to getting to the end of your rope. It also gives you more bandwith to focus on responsibilities you can’t and shouldn’t hand off, like keeping a close eye on your cash flow, and profits and losses.
To delegate most effectively, try applying these three Delegation Ninja rules:
- “Trust, but verify.” Give people room to get things done without looking over their shoulder, but do make sure to double-check the work.
- If the project doesn’t come out the way you wanted, find a better way to explain it and try delegating it again to the same team member. Ask them to write up a checklist of how to do the task and to continue adding to it each time they do it. Keep all of these in an easy access place for other team members. (suggested reading: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande)
- Take 100 percent responsibility for the task you delegated. Chances are, if you hired the right people, they will get it right the next time. And then, oh joy, you can hand it off permanently!
What are some of your best Delegation Ninja tips and techniques? Please share them with me in the comments below.
Until next time,