3 Delegation Traps Entrepreneurs Fall Into— and How To Avoid Them


Once your business has grown too big for you to do everything alone, hiring employees is only the first step to getting work off your plate — you also have to know how to properly delegate that work if you want to stay ahead of your operations.

Gloria West, a senior consultant and executive coach with Success Labs, a management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, says delegation is important because it frees up your energy to be strategic and plan for the future.

West cites three common delegation traps for you to avoid to keep your business running smoothly.

Trap No. 1: Waiting Too Long to Let Go

Don’t wait until you’re drowning before you start delegating work. Your business and your mental health will suffer if you try to do everything until the realization sets in that your to-do list has become overwhelming.

Part of the reason waiting too long is an issue is that effective delegation doesn’t “just happen” with the decision that it’s needed. For example, it’s important to remember to account for time to train people as you delegate tasks to them, and to follow up to make sure things are going as planned, West says. Developing your people is a long-term strategic activity, and if you wait until you’re too busy to delegate, you’ll never delegate, she says.

But if you begin small, the tasks you delegate can grow as your business and employees grow. “If you ever only delegate the mundane tasks, that’s bad, but that’s the place to start,” West says. “Start small with the little routine things, because it will save you time and it’s also something the person can get practice at until it becomes their task.”

Trap No. 2: Obsessing over the Details

As a leader, even when you delegate a task you’re still responsible for it, so it can be difficult to put your trust in someone else. However, there’s no point delegating work if you’re going to spend every minute micromanaging and hovering over people.

If you don’t delegate important tasks and trust your people to carry them out, you’ll never be able to take a vacation or a sick day, West says. Additionally, you need to beware of holding everyone to perfectionist standards. If an employee does a task in an acceptable manner but it’s not exactly how you do it, you have to recognize when to let it be. Sometimes you have to let go of details that aren’t critical to your operation, she says.

Start your delegating with the mindset that you are handing the task over to someone else and it’s no longer yours, West says. “Think of it as, ‘I’m training you’ versus ‘I’m delegating this to you,’ ” she says. “Let the person own the task.”

Trap No. 3: Checking Out Afterward

You must communicate continuously with your employees to keep the business rolling forward. It isn’t enough to assign a task and then walk away.

“Let your people know clearly the resources they need, who you might consult to get an answer and the tacit knowledge that plays a part in your decision-making and problem-solving process,” West says. “Be clear about what you expect and what steps lead to success.”

If you communicate what results you expect and how you want them to get there, over time you can rely on people to make more and more decisions for you. But don’t expect your employees to just know, West says. Effective delegation requires upfront planning and thinking with your people.

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