Delegation is the Key – Working on (Not in) the Business

Delegation is Key

Recently I have become manager to a local football team. I find myself using delegation in getting players to assist my workload. Because of this get branded lazy or I have people saying I am ‘Chief Delegator’. But actually this is where success comes from and getting everyone to muck in and help out.

These are actually good management skills if you read my road to failure article on laziness. It shows that success happens when the managers can spend time physically working on strengthening the football team or business rather than working within it.

This means they are not personally writing the blogs, building the links, cleaning the offices in their workload. This should be delegated, as should in football collecting the kits, filling up water bottles etc.

Your value as a leader isn’t knowing how to do everything, it’s knowing who can do what and getting them to do it!

In the military the best leaders and commanders are the individuals who have the knowledge and ability to delegate. Here is an amazing article on 5 Reasons You Need To Delegate Your Way To Success which runs through why delegation is very important. It’s impossible to know everything your employees know.

This doesn’t make you a less professionally competent person, it makes you normal. Richard Branson does not know how to drive one of his trains or aeroplanes but he runs a successful business in Virgin in these industries.

Ask Me – Would I Build My Own Extension?

Would I bloody hell build my own extension on my house.

I would get an architect to draw me up plans because that is what they specialise in.

I would get a bricklayer to install my bricks because they do this everyday and better than me at doing that.

I would get an electrician in to do my lights and electrics because I would probably electrocute myself (tbh I have tried changing a bulb and been electrocuted I’m that bad haha).

I would get a joiner in to do the woodwork because other I would be hacking into the wood with a blunt rusty saw from my shed.

I would get a plasterer in to skim my walls or the mrs would kick off it looks a mess.

I think you are getting my points here that why would I do these jobs when I can get the experts in to do this better than me, probably work out cheaper also and the main thing is that it will free my time up to be spent on other ideas or schemes.

Henry Ford Understood Delegating Superbly Here

During the world war, a Chicago newspaper published certain editorials in which, among other statements, Henry Ford was called “an ignorant pacifist”. Mr. Ford objected to the statements, and brought a suit against the paper for libelling him.

When the suit was tried in the Courts, the attorneys for the paper pleaded justification, and placed Mr. Ford himself, on the witness stand, for the purpose of proving to the jury that he was ignorant. The attorneys asked Mr. Ford a great variety of questions, all of them intended to prove, by his own evidence, that while he might possess considerable specialised knowledge pertaining to the manufacture of automobiles, he was, in the main, ignorant.

Mr. Ford was asked questions such as the following:

“Who was Benedict Arnold?” and “How many soldiers did the British send over to America to put down the Rebellion of 1776?”. Soon it became apparent to the court that Mr Ford didn’t know the answer to many of the questions.

Tell me why I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require

Finally, Mr. Ford became tired of this line of questioning and in reply to a particularly offensive question, he leaned over, pointed his finger at the lawyer who had asked the question, and said, “If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”

There certainly was good logic to that reply. That answer floored the lawyer. Every person in the courtroom realised it was the answer, not of an ignorant man, but of a man of education. Any man is educated if he knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organise that knowledge into definite plans of action.

The most educated people on earth are those who can successfully delegate work to specialists in any particular field

Delegation Key Points

Delegation and setting systems in place is the Key to Sustaining Success.  When you are growing a business, there are always more things that need to get done than there is time to do them.

You really need to step back from working on the day to day tasks like pricing, sales, project management. Instead set strategies so your team can run this efficiently. To keep your business growing, you have to find ways to do more without working inside the company yourself.

If you are delegating out some tasks right now, it doesn’t mean you are good at delegation. You’ve probably delegated the simple, repetitive, low risk tasks. To really make delegation work, you have to be able to delegate some of the truly important work that you do.

The goals of delegation effectively to the highest standards are making your business systems dependent and not people dependent. Then creating the systems in place to delegate the work to the people with the minimal amount of skill to keep operating at a high level.

What’s so hard about delegation? Why does it seem especially difficult for entrepreneurs? To be an effective delegator, you need to understand the roadblocks in your way. Until you realise the problems and issues that can arise you will always struggle to live the laptop lifestyle travelling the world.

Delegation is a risk. What if your staff make important decisions and they made the wrong one? How much might it cost? Whatever the short term cost of that bad decision might be, I promise you that it will cost you much more in the long run if you do not delegate important work.

delegation is the key

If you insist on having the final say over every important decision, you will never develop an effective management team. Therefore you’ll never realise the full potential of your business.

By delegating effectively and setting systems, the wrong decisions should not happen. If it does then blame your strategy and in your training methods include the pitfalls so it does not happen again.

If you think it’s easier and quicker for you to do it rather than taking the time to train someone else to do it. Yeah, that’s right, you can do it in 15 minutes but it will take two hours to train someone else to do it. That works for a one-time task, but for repetitive tasks, you’re just kidding yourself if you think this is an effective use of your time.

If this is the way you work, you’re trapped on a treadmill going nowhere. For the sake of your company (and your sanity), at some point, you’re going to need to let go.

As the famous saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Teaching your staff how to do the things that need doing is much more sustainable and offers better long term benefits.

Here’s how smart owners delegate work effectively. Here are key points to effective delegation:-

Set Goals Before Delegating

Make a list of all the tasks you now do each week. Pick out the one task that makes the biggest contribution to moving your company toward its goals. Give this task the number one. Then pick out the second most important task and assign it number two.

Continue through the list numbering all the tasks. Now split the list in half by ranking. The bottom half of your list becomes your Delegation List of tasks you will begin to offload. Set times against these goals and create the indepth training for your staff to delegate this to.

Select Strengths of Your Staff

You need to position your work infront of the right staff. Passing accounts work to your most creative member of staff will not get you the best results. Selecting the right personnel for the work you are delegating is crucial.

They need to really enjoy be able to understand the work you are passing them and play to their strengths. Review each of the people in your organisation in your mind and decide who is ready to take on more responsibility.

Determine what skills each of them has and how those skills match up with your Delegation List. While employees need to be skilled and knowledgeable, they also need to be enthused about their work. Enthusiastic employees accomplish more, perform better and are more creative.

Good managers can inspire their people by communicating how they will be integral parts of your business plan for the coming year.

Communicating Your Message

This in my opinion is so important and if anything goes wrong on workload I always blame myself for not explaining or communicating this well enough. Be certain that you clearly detail the outcomes you expect.

Be less clear about how those outcomes should be achieved. This way your people will be able to work towards the same objective you are aiming for while using their creativity to perhaps find a better way to achieve that goal.

Ask the employee to write up the notes and to carefully define the issues listed above. Ask them to prepare a proposal detailing how they will perform the tasks and achieve the stated goals. Before concluding the meeting, set a time for a followup meeting.

At the second meeting, discuss the employee’s ideas, make any revisions required and finalise the plan. Be certain that a timeline is associated with each step of the plan.

Develop and Improve

Do you think your standard operating procedures (aka SOPs) are going to be spot on first time? If you do then you’re deluded. Regularly checking the training with the people you are delegating to is key to success.

Asking them can they think of ways to improve this which might save time, money or be better systems to get to the end goal faster. Keep communicating and looking to develop your training strategy. Technology evolves so fast so what might be best practice this month could be out of date the following and listening to your team and improving the SOP’s is vital.

It’s important to be aware of, and use, your surrounding talent. It’s good for employees, too, because blocking the skills and ideas of employees can lead to the loss of the best talent. When employees see a manager is listening, they feel empowered and vested in the manager’s decisions.

Managers must be willing to learn and that means listening closely. And managers can communicate that willingness to hear by responding to employee statements with productive questions.

drive your business

Keep the Faith

Naturally mistakes will happen and things will get missed. Keep the faith that the delegation will work and when work does go wrong (which it will in the infancy) then plan to do #3 and #4. Basically improve your training and include what issues could come up then communicate these improvements to the staff you are delegating to.

Let your staff know that you realise there can be no progress without risk taking. Let the staff or virtual assistants know you are available to help and that you will do everything you can to make them successful. And don’t forget that regular followup and communications will avoid unpleasant surprises for you and your employees.

Do not Chase Perfection

Sometimes 90% is more than good enough. Your objective is to get the job done, not create a masterpiece. Establish a standard of quality and a fair time frame for reaching it.

Once you establish the expectations, let your staff decide how to carry out the project. Everything can be improved and developed but don’t waste too long on the small things. Perfection is the enemy of progress.

Indepth Standard Operating Procedures

Make sure your employee has all the information needed to complete the job. Confirm that they understand and accept the requirements. Step by step articles and also if possible videos to go with the wording is best practices.

Say Well Done

Motivating the staff and making sure they are rewarded with a well done goes a long way. Make sure employees know that you recognise and appreciate their efforts. This is also where the fun is because you should say well done and celebrate the mini successes along the journey. This makes the whole ride to your destination exciting and enjoyable.

Create More Time To Synergise

When you spend less time working in the business on day to day routines this free’s up time you should spend synergising. Read this article on the importance of creating a synergy and networking with like minded business owners.

From speaking to close friend and team mate at football he has recently taken on someone at his work as he was a sole trader and could not believe the impact it had. He said now being two on site literally allows them to complete 4 times the amount of work. So if these figures of 1+1=4 does not tell you synergy is soooo important then I am not sure what will.

The video above which reviews the 4 hour work week book shows you what you need to do in reducing your hours of physical work. Outsourcing work and delegating to staff is so important if you are serious about scaling your company out.

Using the 80/20 rule helps you a lot where you get rid of the worst 20% of your clients. This means you are never running at 100% capacity, as this does not allow any room for growth.

Invest in Your Staff

When looking to delegate work and scale your business, I cannot stress to you enough the importance of investing time in your staff. Setting up SOPs for your employees is very important to set procedures for repetitive work in accordance with agreed specifications aimed at obtaining desired outcomes.

Having a standard operating procedure is great but I always find spending the time to explain what and why they are doing this work helps them to understand the importance. This allows them to look out for any potential shortfalls or errors and highlight these as they go along.

You want the staff to grow their knowledge and develop with the business. So these members of staff can become middle managers and train new starters as well.

Why Delegating is a Must for Myself

If you have read my other articles on this website you will realise I love to travel and here is a Digital Nomad Life Lessons blog on why I enjoy travelling so much. Freeing up my time to forward think allows me to create better more efficient strategies put into place to scale out work. Becoming a digital nomad shows how easy it is to work anywhere in the world with wifi and internet connections evolving so much.

Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it hence why your network is your net worth

Those first several years trading before making it into a functioning business, you wear many hats, usually because you can’t afford to hire anyone else to take the trash out, keep the books and talk to the web designer. But the truth is, your job should be running the business. When you realise that and start delegating, your business will grow.

It is important to realise that people will do things differently than you might have but that doesn’t make their way wrong. You need your staff you give the SOPs to be brave enough to tackle you or ask questions if they feel there is anything to improve or develop better. In fact, a new viewpoint could expand your company’s reach and allow it to grow in ways you never would have considered.

Plan for Working on (Not in) the Business

When you are looking to grow the company you run then to progress and strengthen the business might mean you have to take a step back personally to move two steps forward. You need to find systems to remove yourself personally from the day to day routines. Lots of business owners wish they could involve themselves less in the day-to-day operations of their businesses.

When you have 10 or even 20 employees, you involve yourself in all aspects of the business from sales to finance to operations to purchasing. But if you want the company to grow and perhaps get to that elusive “next level” everyone’s always talking about, you have to build an organisation that can do the job without you managing every detail.

Here is an amazing video showing the review of the book E Myth Revisited which is one of my personal favourite books.

If you read this article then you will see he had less stress and aggravation with 105 employees than when he had 10. It allowed him to work on marketing, new business opportunities, networking or travelling the world.

The article highlights the issues you need to hurdle to make the transition from doer to manager to executive. Naturally, surmounting these hurdles is easier said than done and can take years to accomplish. This list does not have all of the answers but should at least provide you with the right questions to ask yourself.

1. You. You really have to want to get out from under the day-to-day. It requires getting out of your comfort zone, learning new things, and unlearning old habits. It all has to start with prioritising your workload and offsetting repetitive workloads.

2. Hiring. If you don’t learn how to hire the right people, you will continue to chase your tail. (This does not come from a fortune cookie; if anything, it comes from a no-fortune cookie.)

3. Standards. A company’s reputation and its customers’ satisfaction will be determined by what a company expects of itself. Setting standards should not be done casually by whoever happens to be in the driver’s seat. The standards should be well thought out and aggressively communicated, and they should be lived. Whether it is response time or product quality or how clean you keep the bathroom, there are numerous things that define a company.

4. Training. People are not going to figure out everything on their own. And if they do, it will be after messing up orders, customers and your reputation. How many different kinds of customer problems can there be? How many solutions are there? Challenge your staff to develop and overcome problems that are natural to come up in daily life circumstances.

think outside the box

For people to follow and respect you they need to understand you, so make clear communications your goal. Express what you want from your employees in simple statements that you can translate into workplace expectations.

5. Systems, Procedures, Planning and Tools. There are ways to avoid mistakes, to keep track of things and to be more effective and efficient. Every time something goes wrong you should ask yourself, is there something we could have done to avoid this?

6. The Wrong People. Your employees have varied talents and needs. Taking a genuine interest in their lives will foster their loyalty and pay rich dividends. Sometimes it is bad hiring, sometimes it is just a bad fit. I used to put out fires all of the time. I finally figured out that it was better to get rid of the arsonists.

That doesn’t mean these employees don’t mean well.  It may mean, assuming they have been properly trained and managed, that they can’t do well. This step requires will — as in you will do something about it. Is there anyone working for you that you would be happy to see quit?

7. Delegation. This one seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But delegation only works when you have the right people. And the hardest part is accepting that some of the things that you delegate will not be done as well as you could have done them yourself. You can afford to fix occasional mistakes more easily than you can afford to do everything yourself.

8. Compensation. It is difficult to run a smooth operation if you are constantly losing good people. What is your turnover rate? Do you pay enough, respect enough and provide a pleasant work environment?

9. Feedback. Have you surrounded yourself with yes men and women? You do not want your staff sitting on the fence and agreeing with everything you say. Of course, you have to be able to handle the truth! Sometimes I am wrong, sometimes I am oblivious, sometimes I am delusional. The last thing I want is to stay that way. This is where fear of the boss can do the most damage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve enough to think that no one is afraid of me because I am the boss.

I do feel that the lonely-at-the-top thing is very, well, lonely. But there is no greater feeling than knowing that people are with you on a common cause, and you don’t have to read their minds. Get your staff being honest and have the brave nature to tackle you if they feel it is wrong or you could do something better.

10. You, again. Maybe you really like being the sales rep, the production manager or the one doing the work. Maybe you are trying to be someone you are not. I have learned that there is such a thing as big enough. It can be liberating to people who are ambitious to recognise that they have limitations, and that they do not have what it takes to be the next Bill Gates — and that it is OK More than OK!

I have also learned that many entrepreneurs want to hire someone to take care of the things they don’t want to do. I would be very careful about thinking that one person is going to come in and handle everything. Build the organisation. Or not. Small can be beautiful.

11. Dont blame Staff – Blame Yourself. Do you find yourself getting mad at employees all of the time? That is a waste of energy and bad for the morale of the company. This includes the people you never get mad at. It guarantees that no one will want to make decisions.

There are three possibilities: you haven’t trained people properly, or you have some people who should be working in a different job (for you or for someone else), or you still think that everyone should think like you. If everyone thought like you, they would own their own business. And then they could have the opportunity to be mad all of the time.

Growing the Business

When reading through articles about scaling out businesses then I loved this bit of content from this webpage – Just as you can over-parent you can do the same thing to your company. I am at the place where I know that the staff I have are capable and I can let them handle it.

If you hold on too tightly, things won’t grow. This really goes hand in hand with the millionaire fast lane book where you have three financial paths being the sidewalk, the slow lane and the fast lane. If you really believe you are able to cope with the fast lane then outsourcing your work and delegation is really key to success.

Watch this video and it will explain the three financial paths and see which one you are?

Some business owners spend so much time working on their weaknesses and trying to be everything but the problem is that company will only grow to the limits of the talents of that individual. You want it to grow to the talents of entire team.

It takes a group to move an organisation forward. Once owners understand that, they are well on their way to success. True leaders understand they don’t have all the answer and they surround themselves with the right talent hence the reason why synergising is so crucial to business owners.

Being An Effective Leader

If you want to run a successful business you have to know how to play to your strengths. It’s pretty easy to micromanage everything. You may think that you can do things better and more efficiently than anyone else.

That might even be true, but all the time you are spending doing jobs that other people could be doing is time that you are not running your business. When you worry over simple details that your employees could be working on, you are not being an effective leader.

As the leader of your business, you are responsible for spotting problems and delegating solutions. You are responsible for setting goals and thinking about the future. The only person in your company who will have genuine motivation to grow your company is you.

Every minute that you spend working on tasks that you could delegate is a minute that you are not planning, strategising and building the best business possible. Work on your business, not in your business is the real key to success. For this you need to develop delegating techniques. More information on this can be read here.

Are you Too Involved?

We all get heavily involved in the day to day tasks where we strive to deliver our promises, satisfy customer deadlines. But we need to look at the warning signs I have put together below:

  1. You have to check everything once your staff have completed a task
  2. Your staff feel they have to run decisions through you
  3. You bring the most sales into your business
  4. Any bad debts land on your desk to chase
  5. You never complete long term plans because of day-to-day works
  6. Working long hours but still not seeing the rewards financially
  7. No clear vision where your business is growing
  8. Before you know it the week or even worse the month has passed you by with no growth
  9. Reactive in the workplace instead of being Proactive

Here are all tell tale signs that you involve yourself too much in day to day running of works. You need to manage this if you need the company to grow.

move with the times or get left behind

If you are working as an effective leader then here below is workload you should be working on day to day:-

  • Looking at problem areas and how you can improve them
  • Setting more SOPs so staff understand the workload better
  • Training staff and spending time with them to develop and improve
  • Marketing why you have the edge on your computers and expressing this through targeted media channels
  • Strategy and monthly targets you need the business to grow into
  • Accepting or seeking help is not a sign of failure or weakness, it’s a sign of strength and leadership
  • Networking and Synergising with suppliers and even competitors

Then you are in charge of the big picture. When you see areas that need improvement, delegate the work out. Doing this means you can be the leader and visionary that you need to be.

It may take some practice if you’re used to getting really hands on in your business. But your employees will appreciate the trust and responsibility you give them. You will quickly learn that you can do the job of leading your business that no one else can do.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Rounding this up then it might sound easy to delegate work out. When actually this is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Delegating and building your team to help out and have motivation like yourself is hard.

You may even want to think about different lead generation services to help bring new customers to your business. If you are reading this article you will be motivated yourself and dedicated to the cause.

This means it is easy for you to grasp this but trying to get your employees to understand is tricky. A fine art that many might not be able to cope with because of many reasons. You might expect too much from staff, find it difficult to let go and prefer to get your hands dirty.

This is fine and growing into a big business is not for everyone. Having a multi million pound company does not necessarily make you happier. Sometimes a small company that is manageable is great as little stress is involved. We are all built differently and over the years I have learnt working 7 days a week and 18 hour shifts is not healthy.

You need a fine balance in your life and this is where delegation for myself is certainly key to my own personal success. That success in my eyes is more time to spend on creating amazing memories with my family / friends and travelling the world which is why I became a digital nomad and live the laptop lifestyle working whilst travelling. That is keeping healthy with exercise and being able to have the freedom to enjoy life.

Let me know whether you feel I have missed anything on this article and follow me on social media to discuss this further. I love discussing anything related to what I write about and always want to network so be good to hit me up!! Take care and speak soon.

James Dooley

About James Dooley

Digital Nomad who loves travelling the world networking while working on my laptop. Life is a perception of your own reality. You have no excuses and should be making memories every single day #LearnSomethingNew #Develop #Synergy #Network

8 Comments

  • Becca says:

    Agree with everything you’ve said here. What would be some good tasks to delegate out to others?

  • Craig says:

    Wise move to delegate the grunt work and anything else you can. Its rotten being bogged down in all the work ive been there and luckily turned it around. Work smart

  • Andy says:

    Tooks James advice and used it recently. I used to spend quite a few hours each time I did an audit of a repetitive element. After spending about an hour on Upwork I found a guy who built me a script for $70. Now instead of spending hours doing the same repetitive tasks, I set this script to run – go and make a cup of tea and come back and it’s done. It now means I can spend more time doing what needs to be done.

    I am currently looking at every asepct of the business to see what else I can out source / get automated.

    Thanks for the great article.

  • Scott says:

    Good read and agree with the points made! Delegation has been the key to success for many great historical figures.

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