Published: 2012-11-08

Management Techniques: Learning To Delegate

There is not a single management skill more critical to your personal and professional success as an entrepreneur than learning to delegate. There is much more to delegating than meets the eye. It does not mean to simply hand out assignments. It is a science and an exercise in understanding one's self.

Some of us have been lucky enough to find our strengths and at the same time recognize areas traditionally referred to as weaknesses. It takes mammoth strength to let go and say, "OK, this is not my area of expertise and here is where I need help. This is how I will get this help." Often, there are things we wish we were good at but somehow cannot seem to grasp (not for lack of intellectual ability, but for lack of experience/exposure). We must learn to accept this fact.

In this fast-paced world we live in, we must choose what it is we wish to conquer and what we need to let go of. An artful business person learns what he/she does best and does that to the best of his/her ability. He/She lives it, breathes it, and sleeps it. It is a passion. The rest can be left to someone else.

Unfortunately, that someone else does not just appear from thin air. Networking or relationship building, as it is referred to '90s style, is the initial key component of delegating.

You need to determine how your time would best be spent. For example, as a fundraiser, I know that in a given month, I can raise $X with uninterrupted, focused time. At the same time, I also want to publish a newsletter and send it out to my budding clientele. I have no experience creating a newsletter. While all of the software is at my fingertips, the question is, do I really have time to learn it? I ask myself, "Should I learn the newsletter software and design my own newsletter or should I spend $X and hire a designer who already knows the software and just supply the content?" Better yet, I could ask a local graphic designer to barter their services, but how do I find the local skilled person to barter with? You can find this person through networking and relationship building.

The key is to determine what you need to know, want to know, must know, and already know. Keep lists with these headings to remind you of these things. It is a great feeling to cross things off your list.

Becoming an Expert

Jack of all trades, master of none. The old adage holds a lot of weight in today's entrepreneurial environment. No one can possibly run a small business alone. I know this because I have tried. Know what you do and do it the best you can.

I recently started a small business. I could never have gotten it off the ground without the help of a CPA, lawyer, graphic designer, and administrative assistant. My expertise lies in the areas of people skills, marketing, and fund raising. I realized from the start that if I attempted to be anything but those things to my business, the long-term success of the business was doomed. I set out immediately to find the experts I needed.

It is important to surround yourself with competent individuals who have complimentary areas of expertise. Choose carefully and wisely and be ready to compensate these individuals for a job well done. In some cases, I was able to defer payment until the business took off. In other cases, I made long-term promises such as potential employment if and when the business was viable. When I was really lucky, I bartered. In fact, in most cases I bartered.

Payment need not always come in the form of dollars. Remember your area of expertise and be ready to trade it for what you need.

When bartering you need to follow a few simple rules: be nice and respectful, send thank you notes, and recognize those individuals who have helped you both publicly and privately. In doing so, you will gain respect and be known as someone who gets the job done.

When you are an expert, people will come to you in need of your talent. Be prepared to use it. Be proud of your skill and share it.

The Power of Delegating

It is quite liberating once you really do let go and put your trust in other people. The key here is to identify good people, enlist them in your cause or business, give them the ball, and then allow them to run with it. Only you will determine if the ball gets dropped. You must manage and oversee the game on a consistent basis. You must give the right ball to the best possible player.

For example, you would not hire a person with an associate's degree in accounting to do the job of a CPA. Likewise, a CPA needs certain facts to achieve the task of budgeting and forecasting cash flow for your business. You need to supply him/her with the necessary information to get the job done. You must understand the process and know what you need the outcome to be. You must also communicate these objectives clearly and monitor the progress. Set meeting times for updates and a time line for completion. Review the process and progress frequently. The same applies to the newsletter example mentioned above. As with everything, there are risks associated with delegating.

Do not over-delegate.

Excessive delegating can lead to disaster. Overburdening others and excessively monitoring others progress are habits of an excessive delegator. A completely hands-off approach will not do, either. Not being a CPA is no excuse for not understanding the budget of your company. You must understand how the budget works and why and be accountable for it. You must also be able to communicate this information to your board of directors, shareholders, creditors, and, depending on your business, even your customers. Most important, you must understand how the critical pieces of your business fit together to form the whole so you can make sound and effective business decisions. Should you not understand these processes, you run the risk of losing control. Losing control has a domino effect; when the quality of goods and services becomes compromised, customer satisfaction quickly falls.

One last note:

It is nice to want to do all the work yourself. For one thing, on the surface, it appears that it will save you money. However, time is also money, and your time is valuable. If you can not pay cash, try to negotiate a fee or a share of future profits, or my own personal favorite, barter. Just do not try to do it all alone!