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Keys to Success – The Art of Delegation

17 December 2018
Mark Friend
Ambitious Startups, People, Building a Business

There is an old saying

“If you want something done right, do it yourself”.

How many times have you heard somebody else say this or have actually said this yourself?

You might be right in that you just might be the best one to do it. But are you sure?

Is it simply an expression of emotion rather than an assertion of truth? Or is it really arrogance?

The honest way to say it is if you want something done a particular way it may be easier to actually do it yourself than try to explain how or convince someone else to do it your way. The arrogance is the assumption that your way is the right way.

On a day to day basis I hear this saying used by many of my clients, my team and myself. In fact for many of my early years in business I was a martyr to this. I felt that only I could do a task well and that as the boss I had to lead by example. I was a control freak, working stupid hours and with a team which did not develop in the way I wanted it to. Whilst the business grew there was little enjoyment.

We all live our lives by this saying to some extent and the reality is that at times a certain task can and should only be done by yourself. Negotiating a large important contract, buying new offices, dealing with an irate and important client all ultimately may need your input to reach a satisfactory resolution.

It is however so easy to bemoan others, particularly when you run a business or have to manage other people. It is also so wrong for two fundamental reasons.

Firstly as a business owner or manager your ultimate performance is restricted by time. Your best performance can only be achieved by you spending your limited time on the actions that matter to the business not on trivial or less important tasks.  Furthermore you should never try to overcome the problem by simply expanding the time you work (longer hours) as this will ultimately be detrimental to your sanity, your health and to your family.

Secondly your business (and society as a whole) will suffer if you ignore the potentially greater social values. If you really are the best at a particular task you may remain so if you never teach anyone else to do it. By passing on your skills and knowledge to other team members you strengthen your team and your business. A further even greater benefit is that you get to see your team grow as people. In many ways there is nothing more fulfilling.

The next thing I hear is “I tried delegating and it just didn’t work.”

Did you really try or did you fail to delegate effectively?

Here are the five steps to effective delegation:

  1. Clearly define the goal of what success looks like.
  2. Let the other person know about your preferences- how do you actually want the job done, how do you expect the task to be presented, what materials should they use?
  3. Equip them with the right tools, make sure they have the right software, the right equipment and the right support to deliver on the task.
  4. Trust them and delegate responsibility and authority. Give them the deadline and then leave them to it.
  5. Establish a feedback loop (agree specific intervals for review, offer praise, constructive criticism with areas for improvement).

Successful delegation has more to do with the delegator and not the one being delegated to. It is a skill which needs to be learned and practiced time and time again.

So if you have tried in the past, try and try again.

The reality is that if you do the work of a secretary, the cleaner, the book-keeper or do the job of an assistant then you are the secretary, the cleaner, the book-keeper and the assistant and you will earn the same money!

And what really is funny is that there are lots and lots of people out there who really want to be useful and important and would love to be your secretary, your cleaner, your book-keeper or your assistant and want to help you and your business to succeed. These people relish the opportunity to be part of a successful team.

Through delegation you can find the additional time to concentrate on what is important and drive your business forwards with less stress and far greater reward.

If you suffer from this problem then rest assured you are not alone! I still suffer from this to a lesser extent – I think I will always be a control freak but hopefully my awareness helps to reduce the problems this can create and I have genuinely seen the benefits of successful delegation through the development of my own business and team.

Delegation is not a sign of weakness but it is a sign of a strong leader.

If you need help or have any questions about this article then please email

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