Improve your delegation skills

Many business owners struggle to make the move from doing things themselves to delegating work to their staff, and they get little guidance on how to do it. It’s a difficult transition and there are often a few problems along the way.

Whether you’re learning to be a better director yourself, or helping a recently promoted employee deal with a new role, these guidelines can help smooth the transition:

1. Be Aware of Your Strengths and Weaknesses

When hiring people to support you, make sure they have strengths that will fill gaps, and don’t have weaknesses that you can’t compensate for. One of your biggest challenges as a director will be avoiding immersing yourself in old, safe activities, and employing weak staff will only reinforce the habit! These activities are no longer your responsibility – you have a new role to fill.

2. Hire Good People

The key to being a successful director is having good people to direct. Hire people with strengths you need for the business to move ahead. If you ‘inherit’ staff, spend time examining their skills, and provide additional training to fill in critical gaps.

A common problem for new directors is ‘protective hiring’: not being willing to risk hiring a ‘hot shot’ who might show you up. This is dangerous – if your employees don’t look good, you don’t look good. Always hire the best people; there is no such thing as an overqualified candidate, if they really want the position.

3. Delegate!

Effective delegation is critical to being a successful director. It frees up your time to do the things you should be doing and allows your company and your employees to grow.

Delegating is difficult for two reasons: you’re afraid either that the job won’t be done as quickly as you could do it, or the job won’t be done as well as you could do it. You’re right on both counts! But if you don’t allow your staff the opportunity, they will never develop the skills to be effective, and you’ll continue to spend your time in activities that keep you – and your company – stagnant.

4. Trust Your Staff

Trust is critical when you’re pulling people together to do a job, and it goes beyond ‘lip service’. Telling your employees that you trust them and demonstrating that you do are two different things. Trust means that you give employees responsibility and the accountability that goes with it, and that you allow – even expect – them to make mistakes.

Trust is crucial to your development as a business owner. If you won’t trust someone to do a job right, you won’t delegate. If you don’t delegate, you can’t direct. It’s as simple as that. And it’s your mental block, not the fault of your staff, if you cannot bring yourself to trust them. You need to understand that the vast majority of people care enormously about doing good work; your job is to give them the support, and space, they need to do it.

5. Stay Out of the Detail

It’s your staff’s job to worry about the detail of getting a job done, devise ways of monitoring day-to-day activities and deal with crises along the way. As director, you must be ‘big picture’, concerning yourself not so much with day-to-day operations, but with where the company is going and where the next big opportunities are coming from.

Ensure your employees understand the big picture: they’ll have the information they need to stay on track and you’ll find it easier to direct their efforts without getting ‘stuck in’.