Debunking Myths about Business Delegation
Admit it, you may have many different rationalizations for why you, the business owner, can’t delegate work to your employees. Unfortunately, these reasons have become part of the general folklore of being a manager. And they’re guaranteed to get in the way of your ability to be effective.
You can’t trust your employees to be responsible
If you can’t trust your employees, whom can you trust? Assume that you’re responsible for hiring at least a portion of your staff. You likely went through quite an involved process to recruit your employees. You selected your employees because you thought they were the most talented people available and deserved your trust. Now your job is to give them that trust without strings attached.
You usually reap what you sow. Your staff members are ready, willing, and able to be responsible employees — you just have to give them a chance. Sure, not every employee is going to be able to handle every task you assign, so delegate responsibly.
Does someone need more training? More time? More practice? Maybe you need to find a task that’s better suited to an employee’s experience or disposition. Or perhaps you simply hired the wrong person for the job. If that’s the case, face up to the fact and fire or reassign the employee before you lose even more time and money.
You’ll lose control of a task and its outcome
If you delegate correctly, you don’t lose control of the task or its outcome. You simply lose control of the way the outcome is achieved. Picture a map of the world. How many different ways can a person get from San Francisco to Paris? One? One million? Some ways are quicker than others. Some are more scenic, and others require a substantial resource commitment. Do the differences in these ways make any of them inherently wrong? No.
In business, getting a task done doesn’t mean following only one path. Even for tasks that are spelled out in highly defined steps, you can always leave room for new ways to make a process better. Your job is to describe to your employees the outcomes that you want and then let them decide how to accomplish the tasks. Of course, you need to be available to coach and counsel them, but you need to let go of controlling the how and instead focus on the what and the when.
You’re the only one with all the answers
As talented as you may be, unless you’re the only employee, you can’t possibly have the only answer to every question in your organization.
On the other hand, a certain group of people deals with an amazing array of situations every day. The group talks to your customers, your suppliers, and each other — day in and day out. Who are these people? They are your employees.
Your employees have a wealth of experience and knowledge about your business contacts and the intimate, day‐to‐day workings of the organization. They are often closer to the customers and problems of the company than you are. To ignore their suggestions and advice is not only disrespectful, but also shortsighted and foolish.
You can do the work faster by yourself
You may think that you’re completing tasks faster when you do them than when you assign them to others, but this belief is merely an illusion. Yes, discussing a task and assigning it to one of your employees may require more of your time when you first delegate that task, but if you delegate well, you’ll spend significantly less time the next time you delegate that same task.
Delegation dilutes your authority
Delegation does the exact opposite of what this myth says — it actually extends your authority. You’re only one person, and you can do only so much by yourself. Now imagine all 5, 10, 20, or 100 members of your team working toward your common goals. You still set the goals and the timetables for reaching them, but each employee chooses her own way of getting there.
As you grant others authority, you gain an efficient and effective workforce — employees who are truly empowered, feel excited by their jobs, and work as team players. You also gain the ability to concentrate on the issues that deserve your undivided attention.
You relinquish the credit for doing a good job
Letting go of this belief is one of the biggest difficulties in the transition from being a doer to being a manager of doers. When you’re a doer, you’re rewarded for writing a great report, developing an incredible market analysis, or programming an amazing piece of computer code. When you’re a manager, the focus of your job shifts to your performance in reaching an overall company or project goal through the efforts of others.
Wise managers know that when their employees shine, they shine, too. The more you delegate, the more opportunities you give your employees to shine. Give your workers the opportunity to do important work — and do it well. And when they do well, make sure you tell everyone about it. If you give your employees credit for their successes publicly and often, they’ll more likely want to do a good job for you on future assignments.
Delegation decreases your flexibility
When you do everything yourself, you have complete control over the progress and completion of tasks, right? Wrong! How can you, when you’re balancing multiple priorities at the same time and dealing with the inevitable crisis (or two or three) of the day? Concentrating on more than one task at a time is impossible. While you’re concentrating on that one task, you put all your other tasks on hold. Flexibility? Not!
The more people you delegate to, the more flexible you can be. As your employees take care of the day‐to‐day tasks necessary to keep your business running, you’re free to deal with those surprise problems and opportunities that always seem to pop up at the last minute.