I meet many very talented entrepreneurs who are great at what they do. Often I’ll hear them using that common phrase, “if you want it done right, do it yourself”, and upon further discussion they’ll almost always reveal that they struggle with the act of delegation. It can be an incredibly hard concept to embrace sometimes, and I can surely empathize. We entrepreneurs want to own our output and are often very independent by nature.
The control freak in all of us is part of what makes us successful, no doubt! But that very same control freak can stunt our growth if we don’t learn how to scale and get the most out of the team around us. Delegating has provided me with freedom and focus I could never have dreamed of. Now, 7 years into owning my marketing and PR agency, I am starting to establish some best practices that I wish I’d learned earlier on.
Giving up some work and control is worth it for the payoff. As the leader of your team you must fight to make sure your time is spent on the most valuable areas for the company’s growth. So if you want to go big, you’ll need to jump aboard the delegating train! Here are some tips for embracing the awkward feeing that comes along with delegation and increasing your capacity to do great things!
#1 – First Make Sure Your Team Loves the Work They Do
This is important because if this baseline isn’t underlying all the work you are delegating then you are going to feel resistance from your team in weird ways. If they are excited by the work you are sending their way this sets the stage for a successful hand off! Get to know your team and their personal preferences. Tailor who you delegate what to based on what you know they are interested in and excited about. Of course there are always going to be tasks that don’t get the heart racing, but ideally the great tasks outweigh the grind to make for an enjoyable day’s work. A good way to make sure you are hiring the right people who genuinely love the work you are doing is to see where they have already integrated similar activities in to their lifestyle – for example do they already volunteer at a radio station and you are running a music agency? If they spend their spare time going to see cult films, then they are likely a great fit if you run an indie production company! Seems obvious, but sometimes we zip past this important piece of the puzzle when we’re slammed.
#2 – Set up a Strong Training Program & Support their Professional Development
Ideally you can set up a training plan that will stand the test of time and help integrate new hires in to the team in a really thorough way right off the bat. Having a team handbook or guide will be useful and save you time.
When setting up new team members I start by having them shadow their direct supervisor. Then we have them start to draft some emails/work product for their supervisor to use. Slowly, as the supervisor assesses that they are ready, they can start to send those emails directly to the outside partners/clients, etc. Finding the best system that works for you and your team is important. Yes, it’s going to take an extensive time investment off the bat but it is an important investment in to the strength of your team and your company’s future. I would say the first month of a new role should be highly structured and focused on training. After that they can start to spread their wings!
But that’s not to say after the first month you should turn a blind eye to their professional development. This is something that should always be on your mind for all team members. How do you keep them engaged and growing at all times? Constantly learning? This is something that should never rest, else your employees become disengaged. Giving them opportunities for their professional development – whether it’s getting to come to an important meeting with you and stand in, or sending them to a conference or workshop, will go a long way and set the stage for them to be constantly working on their own development in their spare time as well. Circulate articles often and ask them to do the same, share books, etc. The more confidence you can instil in them the more you can rely on them!
#3 – Make the Company Standards and Core Values Known, and Remind Your Team Often
Founding principles are so important and need to be embraced daily. Having standards on how you do things and a way to speak about the “Company X way” internally is crucial. When you have set the stage and explained clearly how you wish to handle clients, important conversations, and other crucial items, that tone gets passed through the company and you will begin to see other team members start to manage it for you. You will also be able to identify if someone is not a fit and remove them quickly.
That being said we are all humans and everyone needs a refresher every one in a while. Make sure your team’s core values are circulated often in a positive way. By being clear about these important aspects of the company you are setting your team up for success. They will know what lines never to cross and what your expectations are in a big picture sense.
#4 – Give On-Going Feedback, Both Positive and Constructive
I don’t believe in the old school structure of yearly or quarterly reviews! How is someone supposed to react quickly and do their best work every day if their manager is keeping a laundry list and only bringing these things to their attention every once in a while? Feedback in my opinion should be integrated on a daily basis and part of the way the team communicates with each other. Positive feedback can be powerful and inspire your team members to work late and push through a challenging situation – so be sure to dish it out generously when it’s deserved.
Constructive (not negative, ever) feedback should be also frequent. You want to employ the type of team who wants to grow and do their best. They should be humble and open to learning every step of the way. Integrate straight-up and honest and feedback into your work flow.
If it is a sensitive matter take the feedback conversation behind closed doors in a quick one-on-one chat to ensure it’s best received.
Oh, and most important about this tip – ask for feedback for yourself and show your team that you can receive it maturely, honestly, and implement changes often. When they see you leading the feedback game in this way they will be quick to receive your feedback with the same level of professionalism! It is a two way street.
#5 – Give them Space and Let them Own Projects
If you do your job well as a leader you ideally want to surround yourself with people who are much smarter than you in and are experts, or that you grow into experts, in different fields. This means you need to take a step back and let them do things their own way. You need to trust that if they hit a roadblock they will come to you for help, but micro-managing or forcing your techniques down staffs’ throats is not going to allow you to get the best out of them. Give them space to develop as a professional voice and truly take ownership of projects. Allow them to take credit for their wins when they do crush it. Once in a while there may be setbacks or a disappointing moment – let them fight through those as well. Be there to mentor, support, and step in where needed alongside them, but allow them to see through the project from beginning to end as a lead and you will be surprised how invested they will become in its success!
#6 – Have an Open Door
I literally don’t have a door on my office! Whether it’s figurative or literal, make sure that you are approachable to your staff and fair minded when they come to you. Be supportive, reactive, and sensitive. This will mean they come to you in important moments and trust your lead and advice.
#7 – Be Ruthlessly Consistent
Be consistent in how you manage everyone on your team, your core values and standards, and your daily protocols. Never let something slide one day and then the next day crack down on someone for the same thing because you were having bad day. You set the bar with your tone. People will always look to the most powerful person in the room to understand what they can or can’t get away with. If you are a tough, no-BS boss every day, be consistent in how you manage and your team will be able to understand the do’s and don’ts of your work space and embrace them truly.
#8 – Be Intensely Aware of their Workflow Preferences, Strengths and Weaknesses
Get to know your team and ask a million questions about how they do things. This is how you will know what the right tasks for them are. Some tasks take certain people 3 hours to complete, while it would take someone else on the team 5 minutes. I personally keep Evernotes on each of my staff about their preferences and work flow. This helps me keep these items at the front of mind as I’m delegating day in and day out. Chances are you aren’t going to change the instrinic work ethic and nature of the people who work for you, so play to their strengths and not their weaknesses. Build them a team that supports and compliments these. Set them up for success by delegating in a forum that computes with their workflow.
#9 – Share Information
This is a big one that I see causing unneeded frustration on great teams all the time! You receive some new information from a client but were too busy to pass it on, and down the road you find yourself in an embarrassing position when not all of your team is on the same page. It’s just unprofessional and makes everyone looks bad. The tricky thing is the bigger your company gets the harder this is to keep up with. So I suggest really embracing and relying on some internal systems – some of my favourites are Slack, ASANA, Evernote, and Google Docs. Have protocols and systems for sharing information across the team. When you find out important news try to make sure it is distributed to the team quickly! If you have an assistant, make it their role to listen in on meetings or calls and then share notes with the team – a great and easy way to delegate an admin task that will take something off your plate AND help you be a master delegator.
Project management software is really important to being able to delegate without stress. When you assign a task and set a deadline within a program it will automatically remind your team member of the due date when that project is at risk of becoming overdue. This is one less thing you don’t have to worry about. Less nagging means more time in proactive conversations moving your business forward!
#10 – Have the Final Approval on Sensitive Items
I understand the worry that junior staff may not handle a sensitive situation quite the way that you would, and I can agree that in those moments its very important you are involved and your years of expertise as the leader are leveraged. Have certain protocol and standards so your team knows when to bring you in and when to have you do the final approval of an email or document. If you spend your time approving and editing rather than drafting every email you can scale appropriately and begin to truly feel the power and freedom that great delegating skills will provide! That being said, be sure to set the guidelines on the types of things you need to approve or trust the team to move ahead without you.
I can not stress enough the importance of the elements above. Since I’ve embraced them my life has improved 1000%. I’m less stressed, more focused in my day to day work, and seeing major growth in the company. I get to work with a positive and inspiring team every day. Delegation, I believe, really is a secret weapon to any great leader’s success – assuming, of course, that you’ve surrounded yourself with a great team. But that’s another blog!