Just [Don’t] Do It: The Whats, Whys, & Hows of Delegation

Hey, owners, we’ve got some bad news (actually, we think it’s good news, but we have a feeling you might require some convincing): you can’t do everything. 

Of course, you could argue that you can—and you probably do. You can oversee your inventory, manage your employees, handle hiring, go to market, dig into your marketing, and maybe sleep, too. But eventually, if you don’t devise a plan for delegation, you’re going to experience the dreaded business burnout. 

Most owners shoulder the majority of both figurative and literal ownership of their business—and that takes an enormous amount of both time and energy. According to a 2015 study, 63% of business owners surveyed worked more than 50 hours a week, and most of them lamented the fact that most of their time was spent working in the business, rather than on it. 

We understand why most business owners are loathe to surrender tasks. Your business is a figment of your creation, and the mixture of pride, responsibility, and culpability that you feel for it is natural and usually dominant. You molded your business’ success by doing everything, so it can be hard to let go of anything. Your surety in how things are done under your watch is preferable to the uncertainty of change and the reckoned perils of passing off even a task or two to an able employee. 

These habits, exhibited by owners and managers across industries, of utter self-reliance and self-motivation are inspiring in theory, but detrimentally exhausting in practice. If you shoulder all the manual responsibilities of running your business in addition to the metaphysical ones of inspiring yourself, your staff, and your next step, then you have your sites set on nothing more than that imminent business burnout. In fact, 77% of small businesses said they feel the effects of burnout—ouch. 

It’s integral that you seek help outside of yourself, not only by divvying tasks up among your employees, but by looking outside of your organization for advice and insight, too. 

Not convinced? Unsure of how to proceed? Here’s a handy guide to the whats, whys, and hows of delegation:

First of all, find (or hire) the right people to whom you can delegate. 

In specialty retail in particular, it’s easy to hire the wrong person; often, the employee who’s passionate about your specialty (be that rock climbing or running) is not the best person to actually sell your product (that would be someone with a keen eye for the customer experience). Similarly, it’s easy to misallocate tasks to the wrong person, particularly if that person is a manager who was promoted to their role for the wrong reasons (say, because of tenure rather than the ability to balance responsibilities). Make sure you have the right people in the right positions so that you can shift some of the chores of ownership. 

Then identify key areas for delegation.

Before you begin to delegate, you need to identify the areas that actually can be effectively delegated. Prioritize the tasks you perform and rank them based on skill required and importance—those that require the least amount of skill or expertise and are least important can be easily delegated. 

Divvy up tasks among capable employees, identifying the objective and timeline of each task.

If you aren’t clear with your employees, your worst fear—the failure of delegation—will come true. Ensure your employee understands the objectives and strategies for the task to avoid miscommunication. Identifying a timeline helps keep the employee on track.  

Once you’ve delegated some of your responsibilities, you’ll find yourself feeling less burnt out. 

Once you have 100 tasks on your plate rather than 101, you’ll be able to spend more time doing those 100 tasks well and relax when you’re not. And we have to tell you, burnout is kind of a big deal; according to a 2017 study, the negative effects of occupational burnout can range from heart disease to depression to diabetes. 

And you’ll probably find that your employees are actually improving. 

Delegating tasks promotes a collaborative, trusting work environment. You exhibit trust in your employees when you give them the tasks you’ve claimed responsibility for in the past, and you simultaneously foster an environment where employees are encouraged to work together, just as you’ve worked with this employee to get this task done. 

You’ll finally be able to invest your time where you’ve always wanted—on the business rather than in it. 

Delegation naturally clears some space in your schedule to do what managers and owners are actually supposed to do: create a plan for your business’ future. You’ll have the mental capacity to consider your business’ current obstacles, amend your errors, restructure, and reinvent. 

And then, take your new delegation skills outside of your business.

Now that you’re able to get a bird’s eye view of your biz, you’ll probably identify some obstacles that you’re not able to tackle on your own. Or maybe you’ll find your time absorbed by a task or project you’re not able to delegate within your organization. It’s these cases where a little help from someone like The Mann Group can come in handy. 

Those outside perspectives will help you see your business from the other side. 

As an owner, your perspective on your business is naturally skewed; whether you’re hyper-critical or too lenient, bringing in a new set of eyes can help you identify issues and prioritize the projects that will help make your business its best.  

And you’ll also be able to offload the projects that are both important and require expertise. 

The most important and highest-level tasks can’t be allocated among your employees, but they also tend to dominate your schedule when the pop up. These tasks can be delegated, you just need to look outside your organization. Just as you hire an accountant to do your high-stress taxes, so should you consider hiring an organization like The Mann Group for other big projects like a major hire, strategic planning, or succession proposals. 

Finally, you’ll be able to enjoy the perks of the job.

Being an owner or manager is supposed to have benefits. Once you’re able to allocate tasks among your employees and outside organizations, you’ll finally be able to enjoy them—and maybe even take a real vacation. 

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