The importance of delegating print Print

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Effective delegation is an important skill to keep your business growing, improve service levels and keep you and your staff happier and less stressed. This guide outlines the reasons for delegating and offers you some tips on how to delegate successfully.

Reasons for delegating

Prevent burnout

Trying to do everything yourself is a sure sign of a person who needs to delegate more. If you find yourself working very long hours at your business then you need to consider delegating some tasks before the stress burns you out, damages your health, or you lose interest in the whole business.

Get more done

Delegating allows you to free up your time. It gives you the opportunity to work on your business not in it. You can think more strategically.

Happier and more motivated staff

Delegating in the correct way should lead to more motivated staff that enjoy their work. People grow when they are given goals and challenges to meet.

Better service standards

Providing good service often requires some flexibility and the ability to deal with situations on the spot. By the time the staff member has referred the problem to you, the damage to customer relationships may already have been done. Empowering your staff with the authority (within agreed guidelines) to make decisions on the spot can lead to better service standards and happier customers.

Developing your competitive edge

If you are trying to develop an innovative business and improve your competitive advantage, empowering your staff is essential.

An independent unit

A business that will suffer badly if the owner falls sick or takes a holiday, is a fragile business. If you ever wish to sell such a business, potential buyers will quickly sense its vulnerability. Delegating allows you to develop a business that can successfully operate without you. To summarise, the consequences of not delegating include:

  • Owner stress and burnout.
  • Business doesn't grow because it's limited by your own capacity.
  • Staff can't grow because they are restricted to tasks that lack challenge.
  • Service standards can be affected.
  • Difficult to attract or retain quality staff.
  • Business suffers if the owner is sick or takes a holiday.
  • The market value of the business is diminished because potential buyers don't see it as independent or viable without the owner.


Blocks to delegating

Here are some of the excuses that are use to delay or avoid delegating:

"I'm the only one who can do it properly"

Perfectionism can certainly block delegating. Yes, you may presently be the most competent person, but your business cannot develop unless someone else can cover for you.

"No one else is suitable"

If no one else measures up, this could say something about the quality of leadership. Successful business people become successful because they take care to grow and empower their staff along with their businesses.

Fear of losing control

Be careful that the illusion of indispensability is not based on a fear of losing control.

"I don't have the time"

You can easily be caught in a 'Catch 22' situation if you persuade yourself that you simply don't have the time to teach someone else. This may be true in the short term, but the way round this obstacle is to think medium and longer term. Time spent now in training others will free up your time in the future for more important things. It's an investment in the future of your business.

Dangers of micromanagement

"Some people can't help micromanaging. Jimmy Carter was one of the smartest US Presidents in recent times. But he wasted his talents on micromanaging. He reportedly even helped draw up the roster for the use of the White House swimming pool - a ridiculous task for the leader of the free world." (American commentator on the Carter administration).

Fear that others might do a better job

It is quite possible that some of your employees might be able to come up with simpler or more creative ways of doing things. This should be something to celebrate since it signals personal growth in others under your leadership.


Tips for effective delegating

Decide what to delegate

Consider your tasks during the week. What takes up most of your time? Which of these tasks could you delegate? Beware of dumping simply distasteful, boring work, or work that you don't want to do. If you need to delegate such tasks, offer some compensating challenging work as well, because dull tasks are de-motivating and can cause stress if they make an employee feel trapped.

Be aware of the value of your time

Costing your time properly can often be the step that makes you aware that delegation makes good sense. Tasks that lend themselves to delegation include:

  • Tasks that are repeated often.
  • Minor decisions (should you be concerned with ordering stationery?).
  • Detail work that takes up lots of time.
  • Work below your optimum skill level.

Gain employee 'buy in'

Delegating works best when you discuss the task with the employee concerned and get some 'buy in' rather than just imposing the task. Discuss what you want done and its importance to the business. Try to present the task(s) as a growth challenge.

Case study: Consultancy business

A consultant became aware of the need to delegate when her partners pointed out the true value of her time to the business. "I realised that if I was charging out at $120 an hour, there was absolutely no point in me typing letters or invoices or many other admin tasks when we were already employing very competent people for far less per hour to manage these tasks."

Offer necessary resources

It's unfair to delegate without providing the employee with the necessary training, skills or resources to complete the task. Identify these with the employee. For example: "This is what I'd like you to do. You'll need to attend a course on using spreadsheets first, so see what you can find in the way of course or workshops, report back to me and we'll take it from there."

Assess the task itself

Delegation is an opportunity to assess the task itself and ask: "Is it necessary? Why do we do it?" The response: "Because we've always done it this way" is not necessarily a reason to perpetuate the task.

Delegating is also an opportunity to keep yourself open to new ways of doing things. The best way to do this is to define what needs to be done, but not how to do it. Focus on the desired result, not the means. Let the employee come up with a method: it may be simpler and better than the method you had in mind.

Expect completed tasks

Clarify your objectives with the employee and the results you want. Aim for completed tasks, not half-finished jobs or projects where the employee continually has to run back to you for more advice or guidance. It's a matter of balance: some interim progress reports may be needed (and wise), but continual referral will not help the employee to grow or develop self-reliance. Accept mistakes and errors in the short term as part of the learning process and look forward to longer-term results.

Expectations are often self-fulfilling

If you delegate expecting mistakes and a mess, this is likely what you'll get, because the employee will sense your negative attitude. Be positive in your expectations and you are more likely to be pleasantly surprised. Be tolerant of mistakes because they are part of learning. Encourage people to try again. Not: "I knew you'd make a mess", but "that's a positive start. Can you build and improve on that? Let's clarify again the result we want."

Let go!

The quickest way to strangle initiative and responsibility is to continue peering over the employee's shoulder or design the task so that the employee has to refer to you frequently. Once you have delegated, stand aside and show faith that the employee will rise to the challenge.

Delegate favourite tasks too

Think too about delegating some of the tasks you like doing best. This will help build your business as an independent unit. That means you can take a holiday or take sick leave without fear of things collapsing in your absence.

In a nutshell

'Hire the best. Pay them fairly. Communicate frequently. Provide challenges and rewards. Believe in them. Get out of their way - they'll knock your socks off.'
Mary Ann Allison in Managing Up, Managing Down

Some pitfalls

Loss of control

If you delegate tasks you hate or don't understand, you could lose control of parts of your business. As an owner or manager, you should always understand at least the guiding principles behind an activity. For example, you may dislike accounting work. Delegating this task to someone else is fine as long as you understand the financial documents they produce, such as cashflow forecasts, profit and loss statements and balance sheets. Never let someone else control the financials of your business. Delegate but don't abdicate. The ANZ Biz Hub articles Understanding your profit & loss statement and Understanding your balance sheet will help you here.

Customers and quality control

Make sure that customers or clients are not adversely affected by decisions your employees may make in the course of delegated tasks. Make sure you have checks and balances in the form of good feedback and market research systems in place. Delegate tasks on the understanding that the results must measure up to agreed standards on quality and customer service. Remember that you can delegate responsibility and authority, but final accountability rests with you as owner or manager of the business.



Every business owner is also a business manager. Managing a business always involves delegating tasks. The art of effective delegation can make a tremendous difference to your business and its long-term success. Take pleasure in watching your staff grow through the tasks and challenges you set them. It shows that you are a good manager of people. The results should help to keep your business more competitive and reduce some of the burden of ownership. Be prepared to be surprised by the creativity you unleash.



Other useful ANZ Biz Hub articles include:


Further information:

To talk to an ANZ Business Specialist:
Call 0800 269 249
Visit your nearest ANZ branch


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