In business, there is a correlation between successful workload management and a profitable bottom line. It may seem like delegation is built into a construction business by default through its organizational structure of project managers and subcontractors, but making that structure actually work for you is another matter entirely. How do you shift your approach to empowering your employees so you can focus your energy on your business?
1. Ask Yourself: Why Am I Not Delegating?
Do you have the “no one can do it better than I can” mindset? You’re not alone; owners and managers of small and midsize businesses take pride in what they’ve built. But, when trust in partners or employees is low, your perceived level of delegation risk can be unnecessarily high. The result is fear, which manifests itself in a number of ways, from a to-do list that keeps you at work long after everyone else has gone for the day, to employees who offer help only to be declined. Fear also makes excuses. You find yourself thinking, “I have no room for error on this project’s budget—I’ll just do it myself,” or “delegating takes too much time.” Mastering delegation is a personal journey. Recognize your own micromanaging tendencies first and then work on a plan to put these practices into action.
2. Get Comfortable with Imperfection
Those who insist on perfection often struggle with delegation. In a recent issue of Inc. magazine, Jim Schleckser discusses the 70 Percent Rule. If an employee can do the task at least 70 percent as well as the CEO or the business owner, that task can be delegated. Embracing this practice takes time, especially when you have high standards for how you personally would do the job. Assigning the majority of the project to a partner or employee allows you to focus your energy on bigger initiatives and offer guidance when necessary.
3. Touch Base, Don’t Micromanage
Communication is a crucial part of delegation, as it helps build trust between management and employees. When you first assign a project or task, be clear about the purpose, expected results and deadline. Instead of letting fear drive you to micromanage every step, take the time to develop a communication process so you can keep a pulse on progress and step in to assist when needed. Also consider if there is a member of your team who could benefit from attending certain meetings, take more off your plate and report back to you. The frequency with which you need to connect with teammates varies from project to project and person to person. It takes time to get it right.
4. View Delegation as a Development Tool
The 70 Percent Rule benefits employees as much as it does your work-life balance and the company’s success. In a 2012 Harvard Business Review study, 76 percent of respondents cited opportunity for career growth as a top nonfinancial motivator. Take the time to discover which aspects of the job your employees enjoy and what they’d like learn more about, and keep this in mind when you’re deciding what to delegate. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate their talents while strengthening their skills. It might require the allocation of more time to coaching and reviewing materials, but it’s a valuable up-front investment. Soon, your employees will be able to manage certain tasks or projects on their own without much involvement from you.
5. Hire Out More Frequently
Business owners often balk at the recommendation to hire out certain tasks, such as bookkeeping. Many insist on wearing the part-time accountant hat, because finances are sensitive and there’s too much room for error. I’m not suggesting you hand over everything, but hiring someone to tackle billing, invoicing and other administrative tasks for 10 or 15 hours a month can put a substantial dent in your to-do list. This can free your time and mind to focus on current and potential clients and identify other business you want to go after.
From overcoming personal hurdles to building trust through effective communication with your team, mastering delegation is a constant work in progress, so look into resources that can help you work on delegation skills. Many universities, community colleges and development centers offer on-demand professional development that focuses on business management skills. Embracing the power of delegation requires a commitment, but the benefits to yourself, your team and your business will quickly outweigh any challenges you may face.