Transferring responsibility to others can free contractors to achieve better business results.

Making every important company decision yourself and completing duties you could delegate to others hinders business growth and overloads you with endless tasks. When your plate is too full, you prevent your company
from growing, finding profitable customers and maximizing your bottom line. You become the roadblock that restricts your company from reaching its potential.

Do you want to build a better business? Want more time off? Want better customers, a stronger management team and accountable people? Want to make more money? You’ll never reach these goals if you are your company’s chief worker and decision maker. When you are doing takeoffs and estimates, ordering supplies, going to the hardware store, monitoring your crews or completing some of the construction work yourself, your business is stuck at the level of what you can control and manage.

Employees dislike being micromanaged and desire the ability to make impactful decisions. When they have no input in how a project or task is completed, they are unlikely to take responsibility or be accountable for their tasks. As a result, they will do as little work as possible for an overbearing boss who does all the talking and no listening. This downward cycle explains why many contractors feel as if they can’t find accountable or responsible workers.

Observe construction companies that continue to prosper and grow. The owner acts as the head coach and spends his time planning, negotiating, selling, presenting, hiring, training, tracking results and leading the management team—not doing or controlling everyday work. When you coach a winning team, your job is to develop a standardized playbook, track player performance, call the right plays, motivate, innovate and win the game. Winning coaches call the plays but never get on the field to play the game.

Effective leadership is about inspiring people to do their best. Winning coaches are motivators who build positive attitudes and teamwork focused on achieving a common goal. Effective leaders provide clear instructions, goals and feedback to regularly monitor expected results. Before a team is left alone to play a game, the coach invests time for training and reinforcement of fundamentals so the team can perform efficiently and accurately. Construction business owners who want to be effective leaders must delegate responsibilities to project managers, superintendents and foremen who can act as team captains, empowered and responsible for results.

Part of empowering your team is finding the right players. Finding quality people requires a plan. First, you must decide which key positions you need that will allow you to delegate work. For example, most business owners should focus on winning profitable work and developing loyal customers as their No. 1 priority, so they should create positions for delegating project management, field supervision, office administration and financial management to people who have those gifts.

Start by making a clear and detailed job description for each position. Then, start interviewing. After selecting the right employee candidates, hire them and give them a 90-day probationary period to see how they perform in their new positions. Be sure to meet with them weekly to review their work.

Are people often lined up outside your door waiting for you to make decisions for them? Decisions often are called “monkeys” that people want to get off their back. Monkeys like to jump from employees toward the boss, who has more decision-making power. The tendency is for bosses to like and accept many monkeys, which elevates their control and power. Monkeys show up at the boss’s door when the employee says, “Boss, we have a problem.” The boss says he’ll help and, therefore, accepts the monkey as his issue to solve. The employee leaves happy that he didn’t have to make a decision that may have upset the boss.

Letting go of tasks and decisions starts with having the right people to whom you can delegate. When people bring you problems to solve, turn the question around and ask them what strategies and actions they suggest as solutions. Listen first, and then offer suggestions and advice to consider. Doing so empowers people to excel.

Next, ask employees to identify the next move for the monkey to take. Ask them how they’ll handle the decision and what steps they’ll take to ensure the task gets done. Identify any risk factors or financial decisions, and decide on limits of authority or when decisions might need approval. Reinforce that they’re responsible to accomplish the task by the agreed-upon date, and set follow-up times to keep the monkey
moving toward the expected results.

Evaluate your daily to-do list, and strive to delegate at least half of your current responsibilities to others. As you hand off each responsibility, take time to explain what each task requires and teach the standardized process.

When you continually solve other people’s problems for them, they will continue to bring you more problems to solve. Your job is to transfer ownership of issues to the right people who can handle the challenge. Delegation starts with trust. Begin by letting go of small tasks and decisions, and you will soon see that it is easier than you thought it would be.

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