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Mastering the art of delegation is a critical aspect of leadership; it can improve efficiency, empower your team and ultimately drive your company toward success. But managing the balance between control and delegation is tricky. In fact, many leaders struggle with letting go and controlling their urge to micromanage every aspect of their company. Overzealous micromanagement often results in under-developed teams, inefficient processes and a lack of company-wide advancements, hindering a company’s progress.
As an entrepreneur, I can relate to the struggle of handling every aspect of a business on your own. Moreover, I can relate to wanting to handle many aspects on your own. However, as a business grows, this approach becomes unsustainable, and the need to be involved in everything becomes our own worst enemy.
My “A-HA!” moment came when I hired my first executive assistant and realized that 80% of my daily tasks did not require my skills, knowledge or expertise. Rather, I learned that by investing a little time and effort into training and trusting someone else to handle things for me, I could free up a lot of my time to focus on what really matters: growing my business. Although the “I know how to do it, and they don’t” mentality is an obstacle that regularly gets in the way, leaders should try to remember that at some point, we were taught what we know by somebody else, and in the same way, we can teach others.
Delegation is a powerful tool for business growth not only due to its benefit to leaders. It requires investing in the development of other team members, which pays off in more ways than one. By upskilling and training team members, not only do you free up time to focus on critical aspects of the business, but you also empower your team to contribute to its overall growth and success.
By no means am I saying that this process was or is still easy; it requires constant effort and is almost never comfortable — until you see the results. The efficiency that you’ll achieve by handing off tasks is something you will never be able to achieve on your own, and that in itself is reason enough to start delegating work to others.
Nevertheless, there is a time and place for everything. You can’t delegate every task, and in fact, you shouldn’t. Rather, before handing something off, you need to consider a few things which will help you determine when it is or isn’t appropriate or effective.
1. Confidentiality: The sensitivity of the information involved
Sensitive information — such as certain financials, legal or HR records — and personal information must be handled with the utmost care and caution. If you are entrusted with sensitive information (such as that of a client), it’s your responsibility to maintain its confidentiality and not delegate it to others without explicit permission. In some cases, such as handling payroll in a small, close-knit team, you may want to keep your employees away from sensitive details for the sake of privacy; however, even in this scenario, you can still delegate the task to someone outside of your team, such as an external bookkeeper. In other cases, where the task is sensitive but relatively simple and doesn’t concern the team itself, it may be appropriate to delegate it to members of your team.
2. Repetition: Evaluating delegation based on task frequency
Tasks that are repetitive, straightforward and lack any confidential information are often prime candidates for delegation. However, it’s important to also assess the frequency at which this task will arise in the future. If the task requires a significant investment of time to train someone else and is unlikely to recur for an extended period, it may not be the best use of your resources to teach/delegate it. Rather, in this case, it may be more efficient for you to complete the task on your own for the sake of getting it done and moving on to bigger things.
3. Resource management: Delegation for time and cost efficiency
Occasionally, you may be handling tasks that fall beneath your experience level or skill set. If the task was assigned to you by a client, supervisor or investor who believes you are the best person for the job, it’s important to communicate your perspective. Explain that your skills, knowledge and expertise are best utilized elsewhere, and remember the financial impact of spending time doing things that could be done by lower-cost resources. As a leader, you are responsible for promoting smart and cost-effective decision-making to foster the success of your company and/or clients. Even if you end up doing the work yourself, it’s important to regularly assess your priorities and ensure that your time is being utilized effectively.
4. Intention: Balancing delegation and personal involvement
It’s perfectly okay to occasionally take on tasks that don’t really require your abilities when the intention is beneficial to you and your company. Taking on smaller or mindless tasks can provide you a (sometimes much-needed) break from demanding daily responsibilities and a welcome change of pace. Some tasks can help you stay connected to your team’s work and consequently manage it more effectively, while others are just fun and enjoyable. Engaging in “smaller” tasks doesn’t have to be detrimental, especially when done with a deliberate intent of furthering the company’s success and long-term goals.
When planning for effective delegation, leaders must look beyond the present moment and consider the impact on future growth and success. While it may be tempting to take on tasks ourselves, it’s essential to push beyond our comfort zones and focus on tasks that align with our unique experiences and abilities. By doing so, we can optimize our time and energy, avoiding the trap of wasting resources on tasks that could be handled by others. Careful consideration of how leaders allocate their time and effort is a fundamental component in their ability to grow.