I’ve blogged about time-sponge tasks in the past: those tedious daily to-do list items that, were you to successfully delegate them to competent staff members, would put hours (and potentially days) of precious time back on your calendar every week. But in my travels as a leadership keynote speaker, I’ve noticed that many leaders struggle with the fine art of delegation—so I thought a deeper dive was in order.
For, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not always relinquishing control that’s at the heart of the issue. It’s something deeper: trust. Entrepreneurs, by nature, are a self-sufficient bunch; you’ve got where you are today by trusting your own instincts, not by following any existing business playbook.
But in order to take your career to the next level, you’re going to need to get out of the “administrative weeds” and into the “vision garden”—and the only way to do this is to start developing, empowering and trusting your employees. Here are what I call “The 5 Cs of Trust”: essential qualities you must begin cultivating NOW in order to efficiently share the wealth (of responsibility) across your enterprise.
1. Clarity. This is paramount. It’s nearly impossible for any staff member to meet their personal and professional goals if they’re not 100% clear what you want from them. As a leadership keynote speaker, I talk a lot about transparency in both communication and action, and it’s a critical piece of this particular puzzle. Take the time to set out expectations for each role in your company, and work with each staff member to establish short- and long-term goals, with clear milestones along the way.
2. Commitment. When I talk this issue through with managers I meet on the leadership keynote speaker circuit, the number-one reason people avoid delegation is time; they genuinely believe they’re too busy to train somebody to do what they can do in a fraction of the time.
But this is the classic “give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish” argument; you DO have the time, you just have to commit to spending it on teaching rather than doing. By mentoring an employee in a task that has always been your responsibility, you’re not only preparing to remove that task from your plate, you’re demonstrating to that person that you have confidence in their ability to rise to the occasion—and value them enough to invest the time to help them get there.
3. Creativity. Most entrepreneurs got where they are today by doing things their own particular way. So it’s only natural to become accustomed (and perhaps even a bit over-attached) to your proven approach, whether we’re talking about granular operational processes or big-picture thinking.
But it’s important to remember that your way isn’t the only way. The best way to keep your company infused with energy and innovation is to foster creativity in your employees. In an abundance environment, there’s no downside to fostering new approaches and creative solutions to all your business challenges. More often than not, you’ll find that the new way will teach everyone a better way.
4. Choice. It’s not just important that you delegate new duties to your employees; what you choose to entrust them with will have a direct impact on how successful each delegation will be. In order for your employees to grow individually and as a team, you’ll need to give them a diverse range of opportunities to prove themselves.
Assuming your expectations and their goals are crystal clear to both parties (see #1), be sure to empower each team member with new responsibilities that not only push them—but push them in the direction in which they want to go. As I frequently remind my leadership keynote speaker audience, growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone.
5. Coach. Now that you’ve entrusted your team with new duties and responsibilities, you’ve reached the really hard part—getting out of their way. While the instinct might be to watch their every move and swoop in to help them avoid failure, I’d ask you to instead approach it the way a great sports coach would: work them hard, cheer them on, and pepper them with positive feedback along the way.
Letting your employees learn from their failures and go on to complete each task successfully will not only demonstrate your trust in them…it will help them build their own personal toolkit to take forward into the next endeavor. And as a leader, fostering your team’s independent innovation is job one.