How to Delegate Without Breaking a Sweat

“I do all the work around here, and let me tell you – business is booming!”

Said no business owner ever.

Coming to terms with delegating responsibilities to employees is an inevitable stepping stone for entrepreneurs with growing, successful businesses.

That’s because the pains of not delegating will push you to start handing over responsibilities (or risk handing over the business). Signs that you might be at that point:

  • You’re doing all the work (and you’re tired, stressed and/or frustrated)
  • Your employees don’t have the knowledge or access they need to take on new responsibilities
  • You don’t ever have time to pursue new, interesting opportunities
  • Your employees feel like it’s all about you and that you don’t share work

And if you can get in the habit of delegating tasks before things get hectic, even better.

The art of delegation

Not to get too Webster on anyone, but delegating is the act of transferring a task, project or activity to someone for completion while full accountability still lies with you, the delegator.

To do it effectively, it’s imperative that you know the strengths and development opportunities of your employees, and the growth areas they want to develop.

Most importantly, good communication is key. Be clear about the specific timelines and outputs you expect, and then let your employees determine how to get the job done. Depending on the situation, you may need to provide more detail and support along the way or connect your employee with another person who can serve as a resource.

In the field of nursing, there’s a concept called the “Five Rights of Delegation” that gives nurses guidelines for delegating tasks to other nurses and assistants. This framework can also apply to any business situation that calls for delegation.

The “Five Rights” are:

1. The right task – Is there a predictable outcome to the task you want to delegate? Is there a basic procedure that your employee can follow?

2. The right circumstances – Is there enough stability surrounding the task for someone new to take it on?

3. The right person – Does this employee have the knowledge base and skills he or she needs to be successful?

4. The right directions/communication – Did you clearly communicate the specifics and expectations of the task, such as benchmarks, deliverables and deadline?

5. The right supervision/evaluation – Did you make yourself or someone else available to answer questions along the way? Did you give feedback on what your employee did well? Did you ask what he or she liked or struggled with? Did you talk about next time?

Conceptually, the delegation process is simple. But it’s not always easy to delegate until you make it a habit and become accustomed to how it should work.

Six tips for delegating with style

1. Look for opportunities to sharpen your delegation skills. Have any of your employees asked to work on special projects? If not, ask what projects interest them – they may have their eyes on jobs you’ve never even thought of offloading.

2. Think about what you are too swamped to work on, and then consider delegating the task to an employee. Wouldn’t it be better to have someone making headway?

3. Practice. It’s not easy to let go sometimes because your employees may not do things the way you would. But that’s okay. And that’s why it’s important to be specific about the outcome you expect. You and your employees will feel more comfortable as you repeat the delegation process.

4. Know the skill sets of your staff and whether a new opportunity will be a good stretch item for them or not. If it’s something they will likely “fail” at, it could make them feel deflated and unsuccessful.

5. Plan some check-in points along the way to see if your employees need help. Although this may sound like micromanaging, there should be a difference. You simply want to offer your time and attention to your employees so that they can ask questions (without having to come to you, which they may avoid because they don’t want you to think they can’t handle the project).

6. Don’t forget to praise your employees for a job well done.

Once you start delegating regularly to your employees, more work will get done, your employees’ confidence and skills will become better developed, and you’ll have more freedom to take advantage of new opportunities.

Insperity offers full human resources support so you can focus on what matters most – your business. Click here to see how our full-service HR can provide everything you need to grow your business, from benefits management to payroll processing, while managing employer liability and compliance issues.