5 Ways to Get Good at Delegation

Picture of by Ros Jones

by Ros Jones

Business coach and author

Is delegation an issue in your business? Are you the bottleneck? You have so much on your to do list that’s not getting done so that crucial elements of your business are being held up? Getting better at delegation will certainly help with this.

When we start out in our business, we’re usually very good at what we do in the operations side of the business. But of course, growing a business requires more than just operations. There are also sales and marketing, finance, customer service and endless admin activities that need to be done.

If we want to grow the business beyond what we can comfortably do ourselves, we need to get help, whether that’s outsourcing some activities or recruiting employees to perform the activities in-house.

Many business owners struggle to delegate either because they believe that it’s easier to continue doing it themselves because it requires additional time to show the other person how it needs to be done, or because they believe that no-one can do it to the standard they can.

This is unsustainable. Getting good at delegation is the number one skill required by a business owner to grow the business successfully.

Here are 5 ways to get good at delegation


  1. Know your self

It’s crucial to have an awareness of the type of personality you are. Do you have a tendency to be controlling for example? If so, you may find it difficult to let go and trust someone else to do a job to the standards you expect.

Or perhaps you’re someone who detests detail? You like to start new things but put off finishing because the detail is too time consuming, and you’d rather move on to the next shiny new object?

Having keen self-awareness is crucial for you to understand why you may find it difficult to delegate and also so that you know the kind of activities it’s important for you to get someone else to do.

If you’re the controlling type, you need to know that you’ll have to invest the time to ensure you can train the right person to do the task to the appropriate standard. And you’ll need to put in processes to ensure that your training has been properly understood – see (2) below.

If you resist getting the details finished, you’ll need to ensure that you recruit (or outsource) to the type of personality who enjoys getting the detail done.

DISC personality profiling is a powerful tool to understand your own strengths and limitations and also to find the personality that complements what you need. Please get in touch to find out more about how I work with DISC and how it could help you.

  1. Document processes and put in systems

When your business is still relatively small, it can be tempting to ignore systems. You just leave people to make up their own way of doing things.

The risk of allowing people to find their own way of getting a job done is that they won’t do it efficiently or effectively which will then serve to reinforce your belief that it’s easier to do it yourself.

Never assume that everyone knows how to do a particular activity. The process for doing every activity in the business needs to be documented. Although this will need a significant investment in time, it will save a ton of time going forward.

Having standard, agreed processes and systems in place will help people do the job the way you want them to. It will make your onboarding of new recruits easier because they just have to follow the system. And it will reduce the risk to the business when someone is off on prolonged leave or leaves the business altogether. You are not held ransom to that person’s knowledge because it’s all documented in your standard operations manual.

  1. Train people to take ownership

When our people come to us to ask for our advice on how to do something, there can be a temptation to say, “OK, leave it with me. I’ll do it.”

The risk here of course is that we’ve just added to our to do list. In addition, we haven’t helped the individual learn how to do the particular job.

In Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager series, his “The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey” gives a classic example of this. When one of our team asks for our help with their monkey, we take on the monkey ourselves because it’s easier. But by the end of the day we’re swarming with the monkeys we’ve taken from other people.

We need to train our people to take ownership of their roles. This is where great leadership comes in.

When someone asks for the answer, they need to know that you will expect them to have given it some thought and to have some possible answers, rather than just passing the question to you direct. They need to take ownership of the problem. Your job as leader is to help them find the right answer.

  1. Set time frames

When delegating an activity, be sure to set a time frame for when you expect the job to be completed. Ask if there could be any reason why the time frame cannot be met and give them tools to help them achieve the deadline.

  1. Communication

One of the biggest obstacles to delegation for business owners is lack of trust that the job will be done to their standard. One of the causes of this lack of trust is poor communication. Maybe in the past you’ve asked someone to do something in a particular way within a certain deadline. But they failed. They didn’t clearly understand what you wanted them to do, or how you wanted it doing.

When communicating what you want done, be sure to explain carefully. Encourage the person to take notes if that helps them remember.  Then check their understanding. Ask them to repeat back exactly what you’ve asked them to do.

If you have any questions about the art of delegation, please do get in touch.


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