The art of effective delegation
By Anne Bachrach
A.M. Enterprises (The Accountability Coach)
Learning the delicate art of effective delegation usually requires a lot practice and patience. It's a dance of constant refinement and adjustment to find the perfect balance of delegation that will allow you to take your financial services business to the next level.
It can be challenging to hand the controls over to someone else; especially when it comes to your livelihood. However, delegation is a necessary factor for the growth of your business — no delegation, no growth.
It takes a team to run a business, whether it's two people, 20, or more. The growth of your business is in direct relation to the power of your team. Barring any counterproductive factors, a team of 10 will always be more productive than a team of one. That being said, any successful business will always rely on a team structure for growth and efficiency. While one person may be able to do a lot, it’s not possible for them to do everything; so at some point, a team structure is a necessity.
The goal is to find team members that complement your skills and can deliver the missing part of the business. With the right team, effective delegation will take your business to the next level.
What exactly is effective delegation? It is the process by which tasks are assigned to create the highest return in the shortest amount of time. In other words, the goal is to optimize your business by expending the least amount of effort with the biggest payback. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Delegation is often considered a delicate art because you are essentially handing the future of your business to someone else — and that can be terrifying. What will happen? Will something go wrong? Will I lose clients over mistakes? What if they don't do as good of a job as me?
All of those feelings are normal. After all, the process of learning to trust others with the future of your business is challenging. It's natural to think that no one will do as good of a job as you, but it’s not always true. It comes down to choosing the right people to complete tasks in a way that supports the success and growth of the business. Although you may initially think that no one can make a greater impact on your business than you, the right team members and effective delegation can make all the difference and dramatically improve the success of your business. However, many business owners suffer the negative effects of building a team, by choosing the wrong team members. They end up with more work than when they started, as they pick up the pieces and try to repair the damage. The number one rule for accomplishing effective delegation always starts with building the right team.
If you don't choose the right team members, it will be nearly impossible for you to achieve the stability, reliability and performance you know your business needs for success.
When choosing team members, use these basic principles:
1. Set the right intentions
2. Hire the right candidates
3. Effectively communicate your expectations and delegate tasks.
This is a very simple process and far from quackery. In my coaching material, I refer to the mind being a goal-achieving machine, and this is the case in everything you do in your life — even your business affairs. Focusing on all the worry surrounding what could go wrong will only lead you to exactly that outcome. You will end up attracting exactly what you're focused on. Instead, before you begin interviewing candidates, set the intention and expectation that you will identify the perfect team members from which to build your business into the vision you see. Write down an ideal team member position agreement or job description. This will help you focus on exactly what you expect of this person in their new position. By correctly focusing on what you want, you will be creating the outcome you want.
2. Hire the right candidate
Be very clear about the vision for your business, so you can identify the right candidates. Keep the ultimate goals of the business in mind when you’re interviewing, and hire based on experience, skill, talent and personality. A word of caution: It's easy to be entranced by smooth talking candidates, because some people interview very well. They say all the right things and tell you everything you want to hear. However, as good as they may sound, it really comes down to looking at the cold, hard facts. Remain objective during the interview process, taking note of their personality to see if they are presenting genuineness or fluff.
Next, review their employment history. You are looking for the best of the best, so as much as you'd like to give a break to someone with a vagrant employment history, it's best to stick with candidates who show a history of solid and reliable performance. There's always the chance you will find a "diamond in the rough," and it's up to you to decide if you want take that risk. It may be the best thing or the worst thing you can do for your business. You can also require your candidates to submit a personality test. While completely legal in most jurisdictions, check with your local employment laws to make sure you don't infringe upon state laws. While this method isn't fool-proof, it will give you a better idea of personality compatibility. You can find other types of assessment tools that can assist you in screening candidates including www.Kolbe.com. This website contains several assessment tools you can utilize for pre-hire screening to help you choose and keep the right team members.
Consider using a service that has experience in hiring the kind of team member you want. They have systems and processes that can initially assist you in narrowing the field of potential. You can also have your assistant or another team member initially screen candidates.
3. Effectively communicate and delegate tasks
Once you've selected your team, it’s now time to comprehensively evaluate daily tasks and responsibilities that can be delegated. Depending on your needs, you may need to delegate one task or 10. Some business owners just need someone to answer the phone and track e-mail, while others need multiple team members to tackle customer service, marketing and integral office systems.
Make a list of essential tasks, cyclical tasks and optional tasks. Essential tasks may include answering the phone, retrieving voice mail and replying to e-mails. Cyclical tasks could be weekly meetings, quarterly newsletters, taxes, year-end reports, etc. Optional tasks might consist of adding additional marketing or advertising outlets, upgrading software or office equipment, team building events and future possibilities.
Now that you've got your list, you can begin to outline which tasks you are ready to delegate and which ones you may consider delegating in the near future. Address the essential tasks first. Get every essential task responsibility assigned to the most logical team member. Then you can tackle cyclical and optional tasks.
Do whatever you need to do right now to get your business running more smoothly and efficiently. Have a meeting with your team members and outline everyone's tasks in specific detail. Effective communication and delegation from the beginning will establish expectations and specific roles with each team member. Prioritize and establish deadlines for all tasks. Whether you build your team all at once or one member at a time, having regular meetings — say, once a week — for the first few months will help keep everyone on the same track. Plus, it will allow you to keep tabs on the daily happenings and head off any potential problems.
Also important is creating a procedure manual for each job position. While initially time-consuming, having a procedures manual will greatly benefit you and your business. Not only does it serve as a “how-to” guide to reduce confusion and errors, it makes it easier to fill a vital position should one of your team members be absent. Taking the time to create them up front will help ensure a smooth flowing business. Remember, you are focused on your goal of building your business, and choosing the right team members will make all the difference. Not "may" make a difference, but "will" make a difference. Many firms operate with a team that follows the 80-20 rule. This means that 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. Again, the business should be focused on effective delegation that produces the greatest return with the least expenditure. While you want the team as a whole to feel equal, there may be team members that fulfill more vital positions — and that is natural. To promote optimal success, do what you can to ensure that all team members understand they are equally vital.
Effective delegation is unique for each business and in the beginning, you will have to engage in a series of checks and balances until refinements are made to the point where your business is running at optimal level. It is completely acceptable to maintain control over certain tasks for the sake of the success of your business (and your sanity), but reevaluate task delegation and responsibilities every few months to make sure your business is running optimally. As you get to know your team more intimately, you will be able to better identify the perfect team member to complete a specific task.
A great resource for identifying your strengths and the strengths of your team members is a book entitled, Now, Discover Your Strengths.” It comes complete with an exercise that provides you with strength finder results. When you have a full understanding of your strengths, and those of the members of your team, you can begin to delegateeffectively . By knowing that each team member is in the right position, you will feel more confident in giving them the authority to make decisions. When others have to wait on you for every decision, time and talent will not be maximized.
Remember, the goal of delegation is to make your life easier; and although it may not feel like it in the beginning, eventually you will get there. It does take time to trust your team's abilities, but there are no egos involved with building your business. If a task can be completed with higher efficiency and accuracy in the hands of a team member, you must give up control. Stay focused on the direction in which you want your business to proceed and make decisions based on that goal, not on your ego.