Seven Ways to Delegate Work

Increase the chances of success

If you have owned a small business for several years, you have probably come to the realization—finally—that you cannot do all the work yourself all the time. That means delegating some of the tasks, especially those time-consuming jobs that are not top priority, to others in your employ. But this is often easier said than done.

Delegating is more an art than a science. The key is not to make employees feel like the work is their own but to actually give them ownership of the process. Although there is no absolute guarantee of success, following these seven steps is likely to increase the odds in your favor.

1. Figure out what you want first. You cannot expect your employees to be mind readers. You need to have them completely understand what you hope to accomplish.

2. Be clear in your vision. Just because you know what you want doesn’t mean that others do, too. Spell out what needs to be done. Instructions can be helpful, but you will need to allow some leeway.

3. Assign the right jobs to the right people. Do not give out tasks to the first person who happens to be available. Assess the strengths, weaknesses and experience of your staff members, and then match them to the tasks for which they are best suited.

4. Set the bar at the right height. Not only should you outline your objectives but you should also tell employees your expectations. Usually, you do not want to overstate the quality of the work, but you should not understate it either.

5. Show some trust in employees. Once you have given assignments, stand back and let your employees do their thing. Do not micromanage or otherwise make a nuisance of yourself.

6. Allow for some flexibility. Are you one of those employers who says, “It’s my way or the highway”? Let people do things their own way (see No. 5). Give them room to put their own touches on the job.

7. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Dele­gating work does not mean abandoning any control over the process. Check in with employees to see how the work is going. This is not about standing over someone’s shoulder at their workstation. But you might set mini-goals along the way and monitor progress through periodic reports.

The other important aspect of delegating work is that it will free you for the most important items on your agenda. Increased productivity and better morale make it a win-win situation for the employer and the employees.

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