As an entrepreneur, you figured out early that you were not like others on the typical career track, you were destined to take a different path. You are driven, talented and take risks that most others won’t. You are willing to do whatever it takes, and everything that it takes, to succeed. You also have a high level of skill and can multitask like a ninja, which really helped when you were getting your business off the ground. The challenge likely now is that you are too essential to too many of the sales, production and financial management aspects of your business. It is time to let go, but it’s hard, right?!
In order to support the demand and ongoing growth of the business, you know that you need to engage the help of others to keep up with the higher volume of work and keep clients happy. In addition to hiring great talent, you also understand that you need to delegate so that they can act as extensions of you, and possibly even run circles around you. In reality though, you are probably too stuck in the details, unable to remove yourself from the hamster wheel.
What got you here, won’t get you where you want to go next. It is time to disrupt the pattern and build a culture of delegation that truly supports the growing needs of your business, and unlocks the true potential of your people. In this article, we’ll look at the mindset barriers of delegation and explore some tips to help you break down the barriers to help your team realize their full potential.
Rising through the other side of the pandemic
The last three years have been extraordinarily challenging for most businesses, particularly owner-operated organizations. For many, running the business has felt like living in a warzone, with one battle after another, and no end in sight. You probably did what most did during these difficult times, and stepped deeper into the business to down the hatches and keep the business alive. You likely jumped bravely into the trenches and took up arms alongside your team to battle the daily challenges of the fast changing economic playing field.
Now as you come through the otherside of the pandemic and consider the journey ahead, you are likely recognizing the need to rise out of the details so that you can more effectively lead the business into its next phase of growth. Easier said than done when you are still in the thick of it every day, am I right?!
The risk of staying in the details and continuing to be essential to the core functions of the business, is that it limits the ability for your team to build their capacity and the organization can lose its sense of direction because no-one is getting above the trees to navigate the way through the forest.
The time is now to get back to the foundational principles of running a truly great business. Get back to basics to sharpen the saw on delegation. Though it seems overwhelming to even contemplate the extra work it takes to delegate well, in reality, the time and energy pays off quickly. It is important to start out with a shared commitment among the team to the benefits and necessity of delegation, it is important to take a practical and repeatable approach, and once you start, you must keep going.
The benefits of delegation
As a business owner, it is your job to create a playing field that sets the team up to perform to their highest potential and sustain results over time. It starts with designing the right team structure, with the right seats, in line with the goals you have for the business. With that structure in mind, we must then ensure that we have the right people in those seats. Those right people fit the culture like a glove and hold the unique skills and talents to perform the work at the level we require it.
Once the team is formed, it is critical to set the expectations, align them with the goals and then, LET THEM RUN! The worst thing we can do at this point is hold them back. We must get out of the way and let them perform to the best of their ability. Our role as the leader and manager is to stay elevated and manage the field, rather than be the number one player.
Though challenging at first, over time and with effort, commitment and great communication, we can absolutely build a healthy culture of disciplined delegation across all levels of the business. It starts at the top though, as we must walk the talk first.
Maybe you’ve tried delegating before, and it wasn’t a positive experience, and now you have told yourself a story about why it wont work again. Maybe you are sitting with some scar tissue from the last few years, and now the fear of more risk and pain is holding you back on trusting others to do the work. It’s possible that there are some valid and practical reasons why delegation may be difficult now, however, the most common barrier that I have witnessed as a coach is the mindset of the leader. ‘
3 tips to overcome delegation challenges
To help you get out of the way of yourself and unlock the potential of your team through masterful delegation, I have put together a few guiding principles to help you get going.
Tip #1: Challenge your limiting beliefs
Many entrepreneurs struggle with the self-sabotage of negative self-talk, and the need for the approval of others, the desire to please others, and a lack of self-worth, to name a few. These barriers prevent us from “giving up control” of certain aspects of our business. We “believe” that to succeed in business, we must do everything ourselves.
This is a limiting belief, and once we learn to quiet those voices in our heads and walk forward with confidence that less is truly more, it’s easier to delegate. When I work with entrepreneurs, we work together to explore what or how they are self-sabotaging or what they are lacking and how it may get in the way of delegating tasks. We can then focus on the 3 unique abilities of the entrepreneur and come to a deeper understanding of where they truly add the most and highest value to the business. With that in mind, it becomes clear what must be delegated and what is at stake if nothing changes.
Tip #2: Create a two-way commitment
One of the most common causes of failed delegation that I have witnessed, is the lack of two-way commitment between the leader and the team member. Often there is a lack of alignment around the vision and goals of the organization, and there is too often a gap in the team member’s understanding of how they contribute to the success of the team and their value.
When working with entrepreneurs, I help them to close the gap across the company to ensure that everyone understands where they are going, how they will get there, and how their individual contribution matters. The conversation around delegation and the commitment to following through goes up significantly when team members feel valued, consulted and trusted to take on their share of the load to help the team succeed.
Tip #3: Avoid the knee jerk reaction
People make mistakes and delegation does not always go as planned. When things go side-ways, many leaders will jump in and take back the work. They often too quickly assume that it was a delegation mistake to make a knee jerk reaction to pull back the accountability. If done prematurely and without enquiry, the consequence is often a loss of trust between the leader and the team member. The relationship often then becomes damaged and job satisfaction can be negatively impacted.
When coaching leaders, I help them to understand that mistakes, errors and failure are part of the learning journey that team members must be supported to navigate. We challenge the fear response tendencies, and work to embrace more pragmatic responses, including a more inquiry based approach; taking a look at the numbers; and working through the issues together with team members, rather than jumping to conclusions, or prematurely taking back control.
Delegation isn’t just about easing your workload, it is about time management and ensuring that we gain the highest value and return on time contribution of all team members. When we create a playing field for team members to be their best, everyone wins. Letting go can be hard when it is your “baby”, but it is absolutely necessary for the long term greater good of the organization.
One thing that I encourage is that all leaders start small and start early, and when you start, you must keep going. With the right mindset, team commitment and appropriate response to the challenges you experience on the way, the benefits are real and absolutely in reach for all entrepreneurs.
As a leader, ask yourself:
- Are you getting in your own way of success?
- Have you engaged your team with the commitment to being the best?
- Are you responding to challenges appropriately?
I challenge you to take a clarity break and explore your unique abilities, then book one-to-one conversations with your direct reports this week to build a shortlist of the critical things that need to be delegated. Start small and start early. And when you start, keep going.