You’ve made a difficult discovery – there’s not enough time left at the end of the day no matter how much you work. And of course, your bucket list of things for you to accomplish never gets shorter either. Anytime you wish your days were longer, it’s probably a sign of how much you have going. What can you do to ensure you don’t burn out from overwork? Delegation is something we often avoid doing, sometimes for our entire lives. We don’t like to ask for help and we don’t want to let someone else do something we can do ourselves. Yet, if we are ever going to get to the important work that we need to do as leaders we need to be able to delegate. In any company there are so many different things that need to be handled in a timely manner by the CEO and/or senior management.

This is a problem not just for one person, but also for the greater company. What you do now can be of lasting consequence for your organization. Your leadership skill sets and vision for the future of your company are critical to the success of any business endeavor. As you lead the company beyond its current limits and rise to a new plateau, it’s vital that you change how you relate to your work. The journey from entrepreneur to CEO involves 3 aspects:

  • Understanding your highest value contribution to your company and focusing on that role.
  • Recognizing your position as a leader and owning it.
  • Delegating everything else, and holding others accountable.

Read the next article, How to Delegate More Effectively and Increase Your Productivity to understand some specific steps for successful delegation.

The Quandary

You likely have realized that your top priority should be improving the efficiency of your business operations. That’s why you’ve made some organizational changes within your company. You’ve probably concluded a structural change at the executive level is going to help your business succeed and you are considering ways to implement this change. Perhaps you have already figured out the changes necessary need to come from within, like yourself. As CEO, senior executive, or top leadership, you play an important role in holding the vision for your company. You are responsible for inspiring your staff: both within management and throughout all levels of organization. You also play an instrumental role in key relationships with customers, vendors, investors and public relations as well key strategic accounts.

Let’s face it. We as leaders or entrepreneurs sometimes think we need to do everything. Heck, no one knows your business better than you do anyways, right? The truth is that despite your best efforts to stay involved in all aspects of the business, there will be some things that you are not so good at and should let go of. Why is it so important that as the CEO of your company you stop doing everything and instead pass some responsibilities down to other people? One of the biggest mistakes that many business owners make is trying to handle tasks they aren’t equipped to do well themselves – either because the work is not the best use of their time or simply doesn’t fit into their skill set.

The important thing here is that this isn’t about delegating so much as it is about letting go of what isn’t important enough for you to spend your valuable time on. For example, making sure your salespeople are doing their job right might not be something that you want to focus your attention on anymore when there’s a ton of other work for you to do like more critical tasks that can help you achieve long-term goals and reinforce ultimate objectives.

Your Highest Value

Think about what you are contributing to the company and decide which of those contributions have a greater impact on the company’s bottom line. As the leader, your greatest impact is in mobilizing the forces around you – your senior staff and employees, as well as key customers, prospects, and vendors. Simply put, everything else becomes secondary to that in terms of impact. With this in mind, it becomes very clear that not only does delegation create room for others to exercise their strengths and do work that benefits them personally but it also allows you to direct your focus on the things you are best at doing while still getting all the other things done to make the company successful. . So yes, give away even the things you are “best” at (if they’re not core to your leadership responsibilities), and make sure those you delegate to are fully equipped to deliver up to spec and on time.

The Cost of Not Delegating

Now, the hard part. It’s tough enough for executives to delegate responsibilities they’ve labeled “critical”. They fear the job won’t be done correctly. Or no one else can do it as quickly, and the projects will either miss their deadlines or not work out altogether. Or the right attention won’t be paid to each individual project for example. Make a point of easing up on this attitude! You stunt the growth of your company to the extent that you hesitate to trust others with critical functions. Your company will suffer where you think you are the only one who can do the job properly not to mention the frustration it causes for everyone around you.

Sales? Because an upcoming client meeting is so crucial to new company growth, sales reps are having a hard time getting the budget to attend since you’re away on your trip. Product design, although you are a really talented engineer, we know that sometimes other people have fresh ideas and it can sometimes really help move things along if these ideas get given some serious consideration rather than being filtered out by the brain of just one especially gifted engineer who is away on a trip to meet with new big investor. Similarly, recruitment is a very challenging and time-sensitive task with great repercussions for any business but without someone managing it, how can anyone expect to have the right customer service team or the best performing staff.

No matter the incredible amount of energy that you possess you can’t be in two places at once. Certain responsibilities within a company will inevitably have to fall to someone else when it comes time for you to attend an event or meeting outside of the office. It is important to trust your colleagues and make sure that they have space and freedom (when appropriate) go about doing their jobs without being second-guessed or micromanaged because everybody has good days and bad days, we all know this, but no one knows this better than a product manager.

You Can’t Do It All

You become the bottleneck for each of these vital functions. Every time you get stuck in the process, it slows down the progress of a project and it ends up frustrating yourself and other members in your team. You don’t need to be involved for them to do their job well. It’s true that we cannot delegate every task we are not comfortable with but there should be plenty more you can let go because as your business grows, so does its processes. It’s better for you AND your team if you focus on what really matters and allow others to do what you hired them to do. If you haven’t developed your team’s skills to fulfill specific responsibilities and take care of certain issues, then you slow down growth.

Aside from simply feeling scared that your work might not be done to the high standard you’d like, there is a more insidious reason senior executives don’t delegate. If you’re not doing important things, then what exactly are you doing? If you aren’t doing what’s deemed “important,” you could become redundant and obsolete. Respecting high standards and having them met are crucial to a business’ reputation and longevity but if you’re burning the midnight oil constantly or over-producing from lack of delegation, you might feel like your employees are not doing their part – creating an unnecessary burden on you. This is where you need to recognize this self-identification as a roadblock, because it truly is nothing more than that…a mental block!

Delegation is a Leadership Skill

So you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed at the moment as it seems there are so many things on your plate right now. It’s also possible you haven’t realized that your role in this company is to be a leader and not to be a jack-of-all trades (no matter how tempting it may be). You feel this way because you still haven’t completed the first two transitions: 1) You’ve not yet taken the time to understand how you create value in your company via your unique personality and talents, and 2) You’ve not yet accepted the role of leader within your circle of competence and have thus failed to embrace it. Once you make these transitions, it will be clear what to delegate to others. It’ll be about delegation, not abdication.

Many executives delegate but don’t give enough information about a project to the person taking it on.  They say, “Marie, I need you to do this project by next Thursday. Please make sure it’s done on time.” It’s not good enough. Providing a clear expectation of what “done” looks like is essential to having the project done well and on time. To ensure everyone has the same expectations about deadlines and work objectives, make sure you review your instructions with them and specify these details while assisting them to draw up an actionable plan of attack to accomplish the goal. Hold them accountable to the plan they created and for producing the desired results.

If you want to be the most effective leader you can be, you will want to master the ability to delegate tasks. Delegation is a leadership skill that is essential to making sure you and your team can get the most important work done. Delegation develops you as a leader and develops others to fill your shoes as you move to higher levels of contribution.

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