Delegation Dysfunction - Owning your Own Business

By: Bill Zipp

Delegation dysfunction plagues most small businesses.

Here's how it works: You give something to someone else to do. They put it on the bottom of their pile. You check on it and discover that it's not done. You press them on it, and it finally gets done (with rolled eyes and cold stares).

But it's not done right and you end up doing it yourself. That is the definition of dysfunction!

"Getting things done through others is a fundamental leadership skill. Indeed, if you can't do it, you're not leading," declares Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.

FOUR ESSENTIALS FOR GETTING THINGS DONE THROUGH OTHERS

In spite of this dysfunction, delegation actually does work. More importantly delegation MUST work or we're doomed to doing everything ourselves. Here's what it takes to get things done through others:

1.Clearly identify the jobs that need doing

Effective delegation starts with knowing what needs to be done. As obvious as that statement sounds, it is where most businesses fail. Strong dynamic leaders have an idea of what they want done, but never communicate it clearly, leaving others trying to read their mind.

Not surprisingly, most employees are not good a reading other people's minds. As a result, expectations are unfulfilled and everyone is unhappy. All because no one took the time to clearly define what needed to be done.

Like the old Fram® commercials where a grizzled mechanic says, "You can pay me now or you can pay me later," up front time spent clarifying expectations saves hours of wasted effort.

2.For each of those jobs specifically state WHO is going to do WHAT by WHEN and HOW (or NOT HOW)?

Here is the blocking and tackling of delegation:

Choose the right person to give a project to (WHO), that is the person for whom a task is the best fit for their talent and ability. Specifically outline the parameters of the project (WHAT) and set reasonable deadlines for its completion (WHEN). Also set intermediate milestones toward the completion of those deadlines and check on those milestones faithfully, adjusting them if needed (also WHEN).

Finally determine the best practices that should be implemented to complete the project (HOW) and the methodologies that should be avoided entirely (NOT HOW).

Again, a little time spent at the beginning of a project-this should take LESS than an hour-reaps big rewards. Write everything down and distribute it to everyone on the project.

3.Provide the time and training for your people to excel at these jobs.

What passes for delegation in most businesses is really dumping. Or what I call "drive-by delegating" where leaders shoot people with a list of things to do and speed away to the next victim.

Effective business leaders view delegation as a process NOT an event. It is a process that takes time. Be patient with people and let them adjust to the learning curve of acquiring a new skill. It is also a process that takes training, giving people the tools they need to excel at what they do.

The problem is that we wait until the last minute-until we ourselves are utterly overloaded-before we ask for other people's help. We then don't have the time to adequately train our people. But time and training is critical for getting things done through others. Look into the future, even for a few months, and identify the jobs you might ask other people to do. Then get them started on learning those jobs.

In others words, stop dumping on your people in the name of delegation. Start developing them into the fully capable employees that they can be.

4.Follow-up each assignment politely, but religiously on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Finally, you must follow-though on everything that you delegate. No exceptions. Inspect what you expect.

Don't wait until the end of a project to inspect either. Check in at first daily just for a quick update. As you gain confidence that a project is well underway, have weekly times where you touch base. NEVER, however, let more than a month slip by without meaningful inspection of anything others are doing for you.

Accountability accelerates performance. Simple, polite, honest accountability creates a culture of execution within your company. "Follow-through is the cornerstone of execution, and every leader who's good at executing follows though religiously," Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done again advises.

ENJOY THE REAL AMERICAN DREAM!

When you break the death grip of delegation dysfunction, you will enjoy being a business owner again. You will have gathered a team of people around you who are just as serious about the success of your small business as you are. Together you conquer the world!

That's the real American dream.

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