Delegation – Pros, Cons, and How to Do It Effectively

July 3, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

Running a fledgling business can sometimes be compared to giving birth to a child and rearing it through its early years. Both are a labour of love and require careful and considered nurturing in order to achieve their full potential. However, in both cases there comes a times when the best way to allow the fruits of your love and dedication to blossom is to let go and allow others to be a part of the nurturing process.

The biggest problem with not delegating is that you may be spending way too much of your time doing routine tasks that can and should be done by other members of your team. Letting go can be difficult but your failure to do so may be putting a stranglehold on your business.

In small and medium businesses, business success most often comes from the owners realizing that they should spend 95% of their time working on tasks that they excel at and by delegating everything else to colleagues. If they choose their colleagues wisely, each individual employee will also be working according to this 95% rule. The net effect of this is that everyone is working close to the top of their game and nobody is focusing on trying to get better at performing tasks that they are poor or simply adequate at.

The real challenge for business owners is to let go in the first place. Many tend to hoard responsibilities based on the false belief that nobody else can carry out the required tasks as well as they can. However, it makes no sense for the captain of a ship to be down in the engine room wiping down oily surfaces with a rag. Rather, he should be up on the bridge making key decisions that keep the ship safe and pointed in the right direction. Let the engineer take care of the engines.

If a subordinate cannot carry out a task to your personal very high standards, this does not really matter so long as they achieve close to the same results by doing it their own way. This is where delegation begins. It is about acceptance that others can do many of the things you are doing right now. In fact, if truth be known, many may do it better than you are doing it.

Remember that delegating tasks and responsibilities must be accompanied by the authority to execute. Don’t delegate and then micro-manage your colleagues to make sure that they execute tasks in exactly the same way you would execute them. Instead, delegate and trust.

Letting go is the catalyst that will allow your business to grow and achieve excellence. Owners and managers need to let go of tasks and responsibilities that don’t sit within the 95% rule. This does not mean that a headline check should not be carried out from time to time to ensure that delegated responsibilities are carried out adequately. Good management is all about keeping your finger on the pulse at a headline level and avoiding the temptation to get involved at a micro level.

So are there risks involved in delegation? Yes, there is a risk that a colleague may get something wrong at first. But success comes from learning from mistakes. There is also a risk and distinct possibility that a colleague will take a totally different approach to a task than you would normally take. This does not matter. It is the results that count. You must avoid the temptation to be critical simply because tasks are not carried out the same way you would do them.

The key to successful delegation comes from letting go, and learning to be a coach and a cheerleader rolled into one.

Niall Strickland is an MBA with more than 20 years of business and management consulting experience working with entrepreneurs in small and medium companies. He delivers lots of business tips and tools in his many free videos and articles at

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