Doer to Leader

Steps to Effective Delegation as a Business Leader

by | February 28, 2019

Business owners are notorious for excelling at doing the work.  Often, they start their businesses because they’re good at what they do and customers like working with them.  As the business grows, they find themselves overwhelmed — trying to both do the work and run the business.  The logical next step is to hire some help. Maybe it’s another “doer” to take some of the client work or an admin or bookkeeper to take some of the business administration tasks. However, soon enough much of the business owner’s time is spent teaching people, fixing mistakes, and they remain as busy as ever having gained little more than a lot of expense.  Many of us can relate.

I was at the dentist this morning and thought about the dentist’s ability to delegate much of the legwork to dental hygienists.  The doctor delegates the cleanings to the hygienist and trusts that the hygienist does their job.  Presumably, the doctor knows how to do the hygienist’s job but never steps in to do so.  This line of thinking prompted me to wonder how often we get in our own way because we know how to do the work so well.  We retain the work instead of handing it off because it’s faster and easier (and safer) to do so.  We, either consciously or unconsciously, believe others can’t do it as well; and we have a real fear that they’ll damage our reputation with clients.

In order to build strong businesses, business owners must let go of these fears and recognize that training and mentorship are more effective tools for sustainable, scalable businesses.  And this raises a different problem – most business owners aren’t experienced in managing people.  They understand the importance of these tools but don’t have a lot of experience in using them (and are really too busy to invest the time)

I’ve found that like most things in growing a business, moving from being an effective “doer” to an effective “leader” takes discipline.   Here are a few tips I have found effective.

1.Training.   Dental hygienists are professionally educated to perform their work.  Most roles in business aren’t quite so specific in their training requirements.  Much of the training is done on-the-job and is very time-consuming.   Remember that a commitment to training pays off significantly.   If you have a particular way you want a job done, document the process and train your team according to what you’ve documented.  This one discipline will decrease the amount of stress you feel about your team members’ ability to do the work the way you want it done.

2. Communication.  Leaders must communicate goals and expectations regularly.  Having clear methods of communication make it easy for employees to find information — a weekly meeting, bulletin board, or internal newsletter can help you communicate information consistently to the team, which will help them absorb the information.  Many companies have also implemented daily “huddles” or short meetings to touch base on their tasks and struggles for the day.  These huddles allow for team members to support one another, taking you out of all the problem solving and fire fighting.  You enable your more experienced team members to support the newer folks.

3. Accountability.  Setting clear expectations of team members with regularly reported metrics and follow up is an essential part of training and leadership.  If the employees know where the company is going and how their job helps move the company that direction, they are more likely to be successful.  In addition, you’re able to see how they’re performing against those goals.  Accountability is tough to implement because most small businesses don’t have clear metrics to show progress toward goals.  If you are able to clearly define success for a role, your team is more likely to achieve it and do so in the way you expect.

A coach I had a few years ago would say that the business owner who is a roofer needs to “get off the roof” to grow the business.   You need to apply the same thinking to your business.  Set time aside daily or weekly for mentoring and training of employees and for building systems of growth and accountability.  With this discipline in place, you’ll be more confident in your employees’ ability to do the job right and your ability to “get off the roof”.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general information. Do not view this article as legal advice. Talk with counsel familiar with your unique business needs before taking or refraining from any action.