As a young and inexperienced founder, it can be challenging to let go of control and trust others with important tasks. Here are some tips and approaches to follow when delegating work to your colleagues:
1. Understand Your Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses: Get to know your team members’ skills, expertise, and areas of interest. This understanding will help you assign tasks that match their capabilities, increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes. Great entrepreneurs know that leveraging the strengths of an individual is better than trying to fix people who may not be good at certain domains. Training and Trying is not wrong, but instead focusing on the right job profile fit is better.
2. Set Clear Goals and Expectations: Clearly define the goals of each task you delegate. Be specific about what needs to be achieved, the timeline, and any quality standards that must be met. Setting clear expectations helps your team understand what you want to accomplish.
3. Start with Small Tasks: If you are hesitant to delegate, start by assigning smaller and less critical tasks. As your team members prove themselves, you can gradually delegate more significant responsibilities.
4. Provide Proper Training and Resources: Ensure that your colleagues have the necessary training and resources to carry out their tasks effectively. This may include access to tools, software, or relevant documentation. The best way is to make notes of the way you perform a task. Documenting these processes and creating training materials may be difficult, but it is worth it. After all organizations are nothing but knowledge producing and knowledge sharing entities. Creating and sharing knowledge only results in value creation.
5. Encourage Open Communication: Create an environment where your team members feel comfortable asking questions, seeking clarification, or sharing their progress. Open communication fosters trust and helps avoid misunderstandings. Founders must acquire the most critical skill of having candid, but not intimidating conversations. They should both empathize and be firm during these one to one conversations. Listen carefully to notice where as founder you are making it difficult for your employees to be autonomous. It may be your constant nagging or criticisms, instead of teaching and supporting.
6. Avoid Micromanagement: Once you delegate a task, allow your team members the autonomy to complete it. Micromanaging can stifle creativity and discourage employees from taking ownership of their work. Let go of your anxiety about things going wrong, unless it is so very critical. Even critical tasks can be performed along with a competent employee whom you are grooming for the role. The first few times, it may consume your time. But eventually you can delegate even the most complex tasks.
7. Give time for improvement and be a good teacher and coach: Accept that employees may not be as efficient as you are at times. This does not mean, avoiding delegating and getting overwhelmed. Also, you will notice eventually with experience, the same employee who was say 70% efficient eventually will grow to become super-efficient, beating your own skill levels. You have to give good feedback and impart your knowledge in stages. Do not teach a task end to end. Instead give them chunks and ask them to come back after completing. This is because people need time to comprehend new tasks fully. Try to balance their learning capability and avoid too much cognitive overload when teaching new tasks.
8. Offer Support and Feedback: Be available to offer guidance and support when needed. Regularly provide constructive feedback to help your colleagues improve their performance.
Challenges faced in the delegation process:
1. Trust Issues: As a young founder, it might be challenging to trust others with critical tasks, especially if you’re used to doing everything yourself. Building trust in your team’s abilities is essential for effective delegation.
2. Fear of Losing Control: Delegating can make you feel like you’re losing control over the business. It’s essential to strike a balance between being involved and empowering your team to take ownership of their tasks. If you are losing control, it may mean you are growing. You have to bring layers of managers to ensure control as you grow. Set up periodic review mechanisms, and ask for structured reports daily or weekly as required. This will ensure control to a large extent. Make sure you review the reports frequently and the frequency may be unpredictable. That is, your team members must feel that you’re watching them.
3. Quality and Consistency Concerns: Ensuring that the work meets the required quality standards and maintaining consistency across tasks can be a challenge, especially if team members have varying skill levels. Process and Standardization can help achieve this.
4. Communication Gaps: Miscommunication or lack of clear instructions can lead to misunderstandings and errors in the delegated tasks. One to one candid talks and surveys can help. Pay attention during one to one meetings. Create safe space for your employees and give candid feedback. One to one session must have betterment as the goal, but not finding faults.
5. Time Management: Both you and your team members need to manage time effectively to ensure that tasks are completed within deadlines. Develop metrics jointly with employees and bring in a culture of accountability. Demonstrate that even you are accountable as a leader.
6. Skill Development: Some team members might lack the expertise initially, leading to a learning curve. Providing training and mentorship can help overcome this challenge.
7. Handling Mistakes: Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. As a founder, it’s essential to handle mistakes with a constructive approach and use them as opportunities for growth. The best way is to avoid delegating very critical tasks without any supervision. During learning stages, work along with the team members step by step. Some small mistakes should be expected. After all people also learn by making mistakes and understanding the issues.
8. Entrepreneurs may become the bottleneck of the organization: Many talented and super-efficient entrepreneurs have this problem of not being able to work with others effectively. This results in entrepreneurs limiting their organizational capability as a whole. Super-efficient individuals think that they have to do and manage everything that their organization does. Therefore, they are afraid of developing people and this in turn constrains the organizational growth potential. People tend to wait for the boss’ consent and approval for even simple tasks. Developing people and building great teams eventually becomes the most valuable skill for any entrepreneur.
9. Finding people who are better than you: Delegation means for more important tasks and roles means identifying the right people who may be more talented and experienced than the entrepreneur himself or herself. Entrepreneurs should be hesitant to recruit people who are more talented and experienced themselves and work with them without getting intimidated. Entrepreneur as a competent individual will scale only by working with people who are smarter than himself or herself. When you reach this stage, you have to become a leader, instead of boxing yourself as a specialist in many things. Instead you start focusing on more important issues, and strategic initiatives by freeing up your time.
By understanding and addressing these challenges and following the delegation tips mentioned above, you can empower your team and focus on the bigger picture, driving your startup towards success.
A J Balasubramanian is a serial entrepreneur, with over three decades of startup experience in founding companies, mentoring / incubating startups and writes regularly on topics of interest to startups.