As your business grows, you will likely find your free time shrinking. You may realize that you can't handle it all yourself, but letting go of the reins is hard. However, while you're working on all the daily details, you aren't able to do the big-scale thinking and planning that could grow your business to the next level.
Solopreneur and business coach Eben Pagan suggested that you should dedicate several hours a week just toward developing the new products and services that can move your business forward. If you don't have time for that, then it's time to assign the routine duties elsewhere.
As important as delegation is, however, it doesn't always come naturally.
"Most managers have never been trained in delegation, and any time you adopt a new behavior, you will feel awkward at first," wrote Brian Tracy in his book "Delegation & Supervision" (AMACOM, 2013). "However, the more you practice delegation, the easier it becomes."
Here some of the first steps you can take to build your delegation skills. [See Related Story: 3 Tasks Smart Leaders Should Delegate]
Select some low- to mid-level responsibilities that you can clearly define, set deadlines for and explain the procedures for. Think SMART: Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound. Pick duties that have importance, take up your time and cause you stress, but that will not destroy the business if not done excellently the first time. This is a learning phase for your employee. As noted in a blog post on TheRightQuestions.org, "A task can stretch a person or a team … but if you are asking the impossible of someone, it will quickly become de-motivational."
Match the task with the person
Choose tasks to delegate based on your employee's skills, preferences and availability. Finding someone eager for more responsibility will make your first experience delegating easier.
"As a leader, you'll have to learn the subtleties of your teammates. You should know each individual's strengths and weaknesses, including his or her current and potential range of skills," Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, wrote in Inc. magazine.
Create clear instructions
Go over the procedures with your employee. "[Some] managers are poor delegators because they just hand over tasks and assume the work will get done. Properly selecting and briefing those to whom you delegate may sound like a hassle, but it's an investment that will pay back many times over. Agree how the task will be done, discuss a time frame and decide how progress will be measured," Rhymer Rigby wrote in CGMA Magazine.
Also let the employee know why this task is important. How does it contribute to the success of the company? Finally, define the person's authority: What can he or she do different? Who can he or she task or approach for information?
Finally, write down specific, detailed instructions for the times you cannot be there.
"There are times when we see something that is so obvious to us, but not to [our employees]," Sterling Jaquith, owner of Heartland Post & Pole, said.
Monitor and follow up
Especially at first, keep track of your subordinate's progress. Is he or she on schedule for deadlines? Are the results meeting expectations? Check in now and then just to see if the employee has questions. Provide feedback: Where can he or she improve? Praise success.
"Feedback is the most important part of the delegation process, and it works both ways," DeMer wrote. "If your workers have done well with a task you assigned, let them know by publicly thanking them and offering genuine praise. If they've fallen short, don't be afraid to give them some constructive criticism."
Take a step back
Give advice and lend authority as needed, but refrain from taking over or outlining exactly how you'd do it unless there is a strict procedure that must be followed. Your employee needs freedom to exercise his or her own creativity. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results. As you grow comfortable delegating one task, take what you've learned and apply it to the next task.
"It's a learning process to let go of that control and have faith in the people around you that they've got it," Danielle McPhail, owner of eSpec Books, said. After 20 years in the publishing business, she started her own small press, with three partners and freelance assistance when needed.
Delegating takes time, especially at the beginning. However, in the long run, doing so means a task will be completely off your plate, and you'll have a better-qualified employee who may be able to take on additional responsibility. Further, as you gain confidence in your delegation skills, you will in turn create leaders in your business who can delegate to others, resulting in a well-run business that can handle your absences.