How to Delegate Tasks to Increase Productivity and Employee Engagement

BY Kathy Crosett
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Are you a superhero? If you own a small or medium-​size business, you should be asking yourself that question. Because, chances are, you’re living like a superhero — darting from one emergency to the next while trying to keep your business operating optimally. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. As a recovering and former small business owner, I can tell you that Maggie Kimberl’s advice is right. If you’d like to be able to take a vacation this year, or spend a few days on long-​term strategic planning, you must delegate tasks. When you insist on doing everything yourself, your stubbornness comes at more than a personal expense. You risk the future of your business.

SMB owners who become overwhelmed by the volume of decisions they must make, tend to select the wrong option. For example, it’s a lot easier to keep giving a service contract to a vendor they know, instead of spending the time to research whether that vendor is offering the best value. SMB owners or managers who lack the time to do everything on their lists often get frustrated and may end up snapping at an employee. Team members on the receiving end of that kind of behavior won’t stick around. In this economy, they can easily find another position.

What to Delegate

One solution to these common SMB management problems is delegation. Which tasks do you routinely put off because you find them time-​consuming or aggravating? Maybe, it’s updating the company website. Or maybe you don’t want to deal with all the Excel macros in your SEO keyword worksheet. Chances are, someone in your organization would be interested in taking on a new task.

How to Delegate

Delegation is the perfect way to upgrade a team member’s skills and to provide training and coaching. Be careful not to overwhelm your staff members when making an assignment. Talk with them about the project in advance. Invite them to watch you complete the task. Some team members will learn easily by watching. Other folks need time to step back, read a user guide and think about how to complete the job. Not everyone works efficiently using the same work process. So make sure you document every step in your process, but give some leeway for the employee to make adjustments. 

Then, step back and let the employee control this part of the job. Provide feedback as necessary. Compliment when they complete the job on time. Gently encourage them to try different approaches when they’re struggling with a particular aspect of the project.  Above all, resist the temptation to rush in like a helicopter parent and try to fix problems for them.

That tendency is what got you in over your head to begin with. If you want to be among the 25% of SMBs that eventually boast revenue in excess of $1 million a year, practice delegation.