Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

7 Ways to Delegate Successfully

7 Ways to Delegate Successfully 150 150 MIchael and Bonnie Harvey

One of the most difficult things for Type-A business owners is to delegate successfully. Some people say, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself!” They think, “Nobody can do it like I can do it.” And they may be right, but you must delegate sooner or later. Simply put, there’s just too much to do in a growing business, and it’s impossible to do it all yourself.

It’s a compromise, but we think successful delegation is a two-way street. The business owner must be able to accept less-than-perfect work. At the same time, the contracted individual or employee must develop new habits, accept new responsibilities, and ultimately move out of their comfort zone.

After years of experience, here’s what we’ve learned. Most of it was painful. But maybe it will help you delegate more successfully.

1. Find Extrapolation Learners. Those who are able to extrapolate the fundamental principles from an example and apply that information to a completely unfamiliar example are great candidates for delegation. Since it’s easy to get copy-and-paste examples for pretty much everything online these days, many people don’t bother looking for underlying principles.You’ll find people who respond, “Like what?” to everything you ask, even though they’ve seen the same principle in action before. Do not delegate to these people. Only delegate to those who pull overarching principles from their own experience and examples given in trainings.

2. Seek Integrity. When people keep working on assignments you don’t ask about regularly, voluntarily keep you posted on their projects, and do what they say they will, they are great candidates for delegation. Look for those who take responsibility instead of blaming others. When you have to ask about what happened on that project, don’t delegate to people who say, “They never got back to me,” because they didn’t voluntarily inform you. Avoid delegating to those who have shown they’ll accept minimal responsibility in order to get their paycheck.

3. Find Self-Starters. When seeing the big picture, if someone initiates appropriate action, improves an unstable situation, or mitigates a problem all without being asked, they are a great contender for delegation. They still might need some supervision, but they aren’t as likely to require micro-managing. Don’t delegate to those who’ve shown they need constant supervision and oversight.

4. Seek Coachability. When people apply constructive criticism, show steady improvement, and look for policies and procedures that can help them work more efficiently, they are excellent candidates for delegation.Avoid those who take professional critique personally, or don’t seek help out of wanting to appear all-knowing and self-sufficient.

5. Seek Mistake Learners. It’s necessary to accept that mistakes will be made. Find candidates who learn from them, see them as opportunities to get to the bottom of an issue, write up new documents to prevent these mistakes from reoccurring, and candidates who can improve your business’s policies and processes.Avoid people who try to cover up or hide from their mistakes, or who blame others (finger-pointers). Rid your company of those who keep making the same mistakes.

6. Give Regular Reviews. In the beginning, give more frequent reviews to avoid any misconceptions or potential bad habits. Always return to the principles. Remind the candidate of the importance of growth, sales, and profitability. Review the decisions they have made so far, offer your advice on the ones that need improvement, and validate the right ones.

7. Provide Incentives. Create a bonus structure for anyone you delegate to, and make sure you both agree on the specifics. Use this new plan for just a year, so you can improve requirements in subsequent years as you fine-tune what’s needed to get the results you’re looking for.

 Delegation isn’t an art form, but you can lessen the risk of failure by recognizing attributes in others that will give you peace of mind and confidence. Train your candidates on the operating principles and the process know-how necessary to take on the involved responsibilities. Then, give them regular reviews and clear goals—and let them do it their way.

We like to say, “When the cement is wet, you can move it with a trowel. When it gets hard, you’ll need a jackhammer.” So, really overdo it on orientation, make sure they understand where their pay comes from (sales!), and make sure your candidate understands the underlying principles that will guide them in making decisions. Then, accept that mistakes will be inevitable, and accept that they might make choices that will be different than what you would do. Who knows—some of those choices might even be better! 

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