woman leaning back at her desk with arms back, eyes closed, smiling while coworkers are handing things to her

As a small business owner, you can’t do it all yourself. There are times when you need to delegate to someone who has more knowledge about a complex task or process, or someone who has more bandwidth to get the job done.

But assigning separate tasks—or bundles of them—can impede your progress if you do it wrong. Delegating to the wrong person, or in the wrong way, can ultimately lead to extra work for you if you have to clean up someone else’s well-intentioned mess. So, caught between the need to call in help or avoid making a mistake, it’s tempting to do nothing. And that’s a worst-case scenario.

Some business owners, rather than freezing up at the thought of delegating, might choose the opposite extreme: assigning too much of their work to too many subordinates who are unprepared or who are already working at (or beyond) their capacity. From a getting-stuff-done perspective, that’s a problem too.

There’s a right way to delegate. Consider these tips for handing off work in a way that adds to the productivity of your business:

  • Be complete with information. Tell the person everything they’ll need to know to perform well. That might include telling them what support materials you’ll send and what pitfalls to look out for. Most importantly, take the opportunity to define what your expectations are and what your timeframe is. If the person understands your definition of success, they’ll be motivated to deliver exactly what you want, when you want it, without excuses.
  • Relate it back to the company. People like context. They like to see how their work contributes to the success of an enterprise as a whole. That’s especially true if you’re assigning a sensitive or urgent task that a high-profile project depends on. By giving context in a positive way, you’ll add to the person’s motivation to get it right the first time.
  • Do it in person. People don’t always tell you when they’re unsure about something—especially if they’re invested in trying to please you. Face-to-face communication lets you use nonverbal cues to be sure the other person gets it. It also gives you an easy way to show what you want in addition to talking about it.
  • Don’t be a control freak. If you’ve been clear about what you want, let the person manage the project their own way, within defined guardrails. Giving them the freedom to manage a task shows a measure of trust they’ll appreciate.
  • Don’t disappear. No matter how well you prepare someone to do what’s needed, questions will likely come up. Make yourself available for check-ins or unanticipated questions. And make it clear you’d rather hear from the person early than have them guess wrong.
  • Keep a discreet eye on progress. If you’re handing off an ongoing process, even if you grant the person autonomy to manage it, it’s still advisable to watch over things from a distance—especially at first. That takes a bit of needle-threading: You’ll want to develop a level of trust in the person, and that takes time and patience. But you don’t want the person to feel micromanaged. If you see a misstep about to happen, prioritize it ASAP. It might just be a learning experience. Or it might be mission-critical. Knowing if, when and how to intervene is a soft skill every business owner should cultivate.
  • Give feedback. When the assignment or project reaches a logical stopping point, let the delegate know how they’re doing. Whether the person is an employee, contractor or even a vendor, use the experience to encourage, ask questions and develop your working relationship.

Delegating is one of those skill sets most business owners learn over time. It can make your business more productive and help you build your team. For more, including financing solutions that help you stay productive, contact us at 1-855-WHY-PANGO (1-855-949-7264) to learn more.