Suggestions for Learning to Be a Great Delegator

My last two consulting jobs were with companies that were of similar size, structure and concerns. The clients were very similar to many hard-working owners/managers of kitchen and bath dealerships across the U.S. and Canada.

Both of the dealers I worked with were in the $1.5-million-to-$2-million range in sales. One had seven employees, and the other had eight. Gross profit margins were 35% and 36%, respectively (too low!). Both dealt in high-end products, had showrooms of about 2,500 square feet in size and offered installation as part of their service package. The owners accounted for about 75% of their total sales, were involved in every aspect of the business and were working an average of 65 to 70 hours per week.

Does all of this sound like your business? Well, according to the most recent PAR (Performance Analysis Report) released by NKBA, this was typical for the industry as a whole.

Both of these businesses were profitable (barely), and both owners recognized they were working hard and realizing a relatively small return, and they weren’t having much fun. And, having fun running your business is critical for success – and balance in your life.

The Art of Delegating
During my two or three days working with each of these businesses, I saw a number of things that could be done differently and better. The biggest problem was the owners’ inability to delegate.

Each owner had started the business from scratch, and neither had any previous business management experience. Both were CKDs and excellent designers, as well as pretty good salespeople. For the most part, the employees in each firm were smart, hard working and very willing. However, they weren’t challenged or highly motivated – mainly because the owners did a poor job delegating, passing on responsibilities and empowering them to do more.

A long time ago, my Dad taught me an important business rule: Good management is getting the job done through other people. As the boss, your goal should be to get as much of the work done as possible through your teammates. You should be the person setting the goals and standards and making the policies and procedures.

Learning to delegate and being comfortable doing it isn’t easy. Often, there is a feeling that “nobody can do it as well as I can – so I may as well do it myself!” Wrong! If you’ve hired well, you’ll have talented, eager employees to whom you can delegate work that is big and small, more important and less important.

You have to learn to cut loose, pass on, mentor, coach, encourage, evaluate, critique, recognize and reward your staff. If you want to grow your business to the next level, start having more fun, work fewer hours and make more money, you have to learn to delegate effectively.

Honing Your Skills
Following, and in the next installment of this column, I will list a number of things that will greatly improve your delegating skills.

• Use delegation to benefit you, your staff and your organization. Delegation is the manager’s key to efficiency – and it benefits everyone.

• Show faith in your delegate, even if others have reservations. If you don’t have the faith to delegate certain tasks to an employee, change the employee.

• Delegation will boost staff morale, build confidence and reduce stress. Your employees want new challenges and opportunities. They want more responsibility and authority. Your job is to pass along assignments and new duties that will allow your employees to grow.

• Set aside enough time each day for long-term projects. If you spend every day doing “busy work,” this won’t happen. Be the “visionary,” not the “grunt.”

• Be sure you have enough experience and expertise to coach others. If you are short in some areas, correct them

• If delegation isn’t working, find out why. Evaluate your own skills in this area. Ask someone else – possibly an independent party – to help evaluate your personal delegation skills.

• Avoid doing tasks because you believe you do them better. Sure, you may have more expertise and may have been doing most tasks longer, but this doesn’t mean your employees can’t do the same tasks as well – or even better.

• Delegating effectively and efficiently will strengthen your performance. As a result, you will become a better manager.

• Have confidence in the members of your staff and they will become more confident and loyal to you. As you “cut loose” some of your tasks, you will find morale improves and the whole team will become stronger.

• Always expect delegated performance to be at least equal to your own standard. If you believe they can, they most likely will. If you don’t believe they can, they won’t! Remember my favorite human resource theme? Hire, train, communicate, motivate and compensate the best and you will be the best!

• Encourage people who claim to be overworked to keep a task time log. Ask them to keep track of everything they do for a solid week. Keep a tablet on the desk and log every activity and the time it takes to achieve it. Then review the final lists, looking for time wasters and ways to help the employees become more efficient. Do the same thing for yourself. You’ll find tasks that you should have delegated.

• The more you let go of work, the easier it gets and the more comfortable you become doing it. When you start delegating and overseeing the delegated work, the more comfortable you’ll be and the more confidence you’ll gain doing it.

• Use the delegation of tasks as an important means of training your employees. When you delegate properly, you should detail what the task is and how you would suggest accomplishing it, set parameters and time frames, and monitor and critique the work all along the way. When the job is completed, evaluate the job done. Be sure to give praise when earned and constructive criticism when necessary. Now you’ve not only passed along a task you used to do, but you’ve trained someone on a new task. This should act as a positive motivator and morale booster.

This has been an introduction as to how to become a better delegator. Remember, your business will only be as good as you are at delegating. Stand back, take a look at your skills in this area, be open-minded, and become a better delegator.