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I get it. Your business is your baby. No one else can do it like you do it. By the time you’ve explained how to do something, you might as well have done it yourself.
I, too, made all these excuses for years. It left me wrecked, emotionally and physically exhausted, and suffering from burnout that left me unable to work – let alone lead my business.
Entrepreneurs are, by nature, high achievers. We’ve worked hard to build a good reputation in our markets, and we can’t risk someone ruining client relationships or diluting the quality of our work.
But that attitude is holding your business back from growth and, ultimately, keeping you small.
Start by listing the reasons you feel unable to delegate, and you might find your problem isn’t quite what you thought.
Bethany Babcock, founder of commercial real estate business Foresite, grew tired of being “let down” by the people she delegated to, so she responded by working as many hours as humanly possible. Eventually, she figured out that it wasn’t a delegation problem she had, it was a hiring problem.
She explained: “As the company grew beyond what I could accomplish, even in an intense work schedule, something had to give. Once the right people were in place, trained and equipped, I felt confident that not only could they do the job, they could do it much better than I could and the company quickly grew.”
Micromanagement, or an inability to hand over work in the first place, is simply a breakdown of trust. That means, in order to delegate successfully, you have to take steps to improve your working relationship with the person you’re entrusting tasks to.
Marty Rogers, founder of B2B lead generation software Lead Peep, made his first hire in 2017, and was soon taken to task for his management style by his only employee.
Rogers said: “I found myself constantly taking over the tasks I had set for him. This went on for months until he finally got upset and told me he felt I didn’t trust or believe in him, which of course wasn’t true, but I understood why he felt that way. I couldn’t help it.”
He deduced that, to achieve success as a leader, he’d have to trust his team could get things done. He said: “And I did it. It was hard for many months, but now I delegate anything that isn’t related to growing the business and believe in my team. It’s a real recipe for more success and faster growth.”
When I interviewed Sir Richard Branson’s former PA, Penni Pike, she told me she believes his success is largely due to his faith in people. Pike told me: “Richard’s approach to delegation is just to trust people. From the very first day I worked with him, there was never any doubt as to whether or not I could fulfill my role. We’d never worked together before and I had no official training – but he chose to trust me.”
Great delegators, then, trust people even before they’ve earned that trust. And trust you must, because even if you believe you’re the most talented person in your industry, you’re still limited by a little thing called time.
As Ben Ricciardi, founder of Los Angeles based digital agency Times10, explained: “If I had the most creative ideas, the best design and imagery talent, admirable financial skills, the ability to oversee day-to-day minutiae, time to handle all the administrative nonsense, run the sales department and pick the best cheese snacks, they’d have already named some park after me somewhere.
“I got realistic about what I could accomplish in a 24-hour day, I came to terms with what I do best, I began to recognize the unique skills others possessed. And I discovered that letting go was among the most important qualities an entrepreneur could possess. Lesson learned.”
There are, of course, more ways to do something than the way you’d approach it yourself. Mike Sims, founder of app development agency ThinkLions, initially launched a startup writing business plans and hired writing consultants to help manage new clients.
Although he chose individuals who were highly experienced, he would rewrite large sections of their work and change the tone to give it his ‘voice’.
Most of my employees didn’t mind, but one employee asked me: ‘What can I do better myself so that you don’t have to rewrite my work?’. Truth was, I had no answer. She was already doing a great job, I was just being overbearing because it was hard for me to let go. But when I did, the benefit was enormous. What I found was, clients didn’t care whether it was in my voice and they got just as many compliments for their work as I did!”
Delegation is also a way to future proof, because you never know when life might get in the way of work. Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder of US marketing firm Mavens & Moguls, started her business 18 years ago. For the first five years she was too scared to go on vacation for fear her hard work would unravel, but then her in-laws, father, mother and stepdad all started to get sick. This forced her to delegate so she could spend time with her loved ones.
Her advice is to hire great people who are smart, have a growth mindset and share your values – then give them the tools and responsibility to flourish. She added: “With the right vision, strategy and team in place, scaling is exciting and fun. You know they have the chops to do the heavy lifting and you trust them to make the right decisions or ask for help when they need it. When they become the champions and ambassadors for your brand, growth will follow.”
May 23, 2019 at 10:39AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs