When you build and lead a business, you’ll be wearing many hats. You’ll have to play the role of a salesperson, an innovator, a financial manager and leader while you still have to deal with routine micro-tasks throughout the day. It can be fun at first, but eventually, this will start eating away at you. You’ll start working long hours, nights and weekends, and you’ll never seem to make a dent in the ever-growing pile of tasks to accomplish.
When you get to this point (or ideally, before you get there), you need to think about delegating some of your work. Delegation is a key factor in entrepreneurial success, on both a personal and professional level, so be sure to follow these seven rules to do so effectively:
1. Force yourself to delegate.
Most entrepreneurs have a natural sense of ownership in their work. They want to do anything and everything they can, and they want to do as much of the work themselves as possible. For the most part, this is an admirable trait, and one that lends itself to better overall startup performance. However, eventually you’ll have to force yourself to delegate some work away—even if you don’t want to. Even if it’s a task you actively want to be doing, it may be better for you to delegate it away.
2. Be proactive.
The second rule is to be proactive in your delegation. If you wait until you’re overwhelmed and on the verge of burning out, delegating a few tasks may end up stressing you out—and it may be too little, too late. Instead, you need to recognize when your work is piling up too high, as early as possible, and take measures to address it before it becomes too much. That might include hiring someone new, organizing your tasks into lists, or helping someone develop new skills to take on a section of your work.
3. Know your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Before you start assigning tasks, you need to be aware of your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Each individual is going to bring something different to the table, so if you want to make the most of your delegation process, you need to cater to those individual quirks. For example, one of your workers may be slow and methodical, while another is a little sloppy, but very fast. To the former, you can delegate important, yet non-urgent tasks, and to the latter, you can delegate tasks you need done right away.
4. Invest time in teaching.
When you’re delegating, it’s easy to say to yourself, “I have to do this, because I’m the only one that knows how.” Undoubtedly, there are tasks on your list that only you know how to do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach someone else how to do it. You may not like this idea, since it will take more time to teach someone than it would to just do the task yourself, but think of that training as an investment. You only have to teach someone once, and at that point, they can take on that task indefinitely.
5. Make your expectations clear.
When delegating, be as specific as possible about your expectations. Let your teammate know exactly how you expect the task to be completed, and when you expect it to be done by. If there are multiple teammates working on a project, establish clear responsibilities, or at least designate one person on the team to serve as the champion for the project. Take a moment to address any questions or points of confusion early on to prevent problems down the line.
6. Trust, but verify.
Obviously, you trust your workers to do the best job they can; otherwise you wouldn’t have hired them. Once you assign a task and establish a deadline, it’s fair for you to trust that they’re going to get the job done. However, it’s also a good idea to verify that the process is underway. Establish open lines of communication so you and your teammates can update each other on progress, just to ensure that the deadline is going to be met, and that there aren’t any further points of confusion.
7. Give and receive feedback.
Finally, take a moment to give and receive feedback once the delegated task is complete. Let your employees know if they’ve handled it improperly in any way (so they know for next time), and ask what they thought of your assignment and instructions. You’ll learn much about the delegation process this way, through experience, and you’ll be able to carry these takeaways through to the next time you need to delegate something.
These rules are about making sure your delegated tasks get done effectively, but even more than that, they’re about maintaining a healthy workload (and your sanity) as an entrepreneur. You need to learn to delegate effectively—it isn’t optional. Otherwise, you’ll end up spreading yourself too thin, your tasks won’t be completed satisfactorily, and you’ll end up burning yourself out in the process.