How to Master Delegating as a Leader 

Delegating is not just an action you take as a business leader. Delegation is a skill. You may be surprised at how many business owners or managers struggle with how to delegate effectively, or at all. Yet, delegating is an essential leadership skill if you are going to run a successful business. 
The following advice assumes that you have at least a small team. However, if you are starting out as a solo business owner, the sooner you can create the capacity to delegate or outsource some tasks, the better - and the information below will help you plan ahead for success. 

The dangers of not delegating as a leader 

We see it so many times with the business owners we work with: they are doing too much and not focusing on the tasks that will ultimately move their businesses forward. 
If you don’t find a way to delegate, you will very quickly hit a ceiling based on the number of hours you can put into the business – and you will burn out. It won’t be fun, and you will wonder how on earth you could cope with more business because you are already tearing your hair out. 
Two of the most common obstacles to delegating are, firstly, that you, as the business owner, want to hold onto a sense of control as the business grows and, secondly, that there is a lack of budget for building a team. 
To overcome the first obstacle, you need to let go of the need to have a hand in every function of the business. You may think being involved in every area means you are ensuring its success, but you are actually holding the business back. If you are not dedicating your time to the activities where you have the most impact, then you are wasting your key resource: you! 
The second obstacle is unavoidable: building a team requires a budget. So, yes, if you don’t yet have the necessary money (whether that be from investors or reliable sales), it can take time to increase your headcount. But there are other steps you can take in the meantime, as you’ll see below, such as streamlining your workload, automating, and outsourcing. These are all excellent preparation for when you are able to start building a team and delegating. 

Questions to ask before delegating tasks 

Delegate tasks only after you’ve assessed their validity. The following questions will help you streamline the workload before you even begin to think about delegation. 

Does the task need to be done or can we eliminate it? 

There are some business activities that you may have just become used to doing out of habit. It could be a box-ticking task which doesn’t add value or a step in the system which is now redundant. If there are long-standing processes in your business, review them to see if all parts are still necessary. Eliminate those which are no longer needed. 

Can the task be automated? 

If your business has tasks which occur on a regular basis, assess whether they can be automated. There are fabulous tools which allow software programmes to talk to one another and carry out a chain of actions. Time spent now setting up automation is time saved over and over again later. 
If automation isn’t an option, ensure you have clear Systems of Operations (SOPs) set up so repeated tasks are carried out smoothly, consistently, and quickly. 

Can the task be outsourced? 

Some tasks do not need to be carried out in-house. Knowing your strengths and the strengths of your team is essential. If you can outsource periphery or administrative tasks, this will leave you and your team the time and energy to focus on tasks which demand the knowledge and expertise most needed to grow your business. 

What are the priorities? 

Once you’ve eliminated, automated, or outsourced where you can, the remaining tasks need to be prioritised. There’s no point delegating a task and then realising there are five other tasks which are more important. So, before delegating, assess which tasks need to be done first. 
If you are familiar with the Entrepreneurial ScaleUp System, look at your Smart90 priorities. If not, consider your quarterly goals. With your current business goals in mind, decide which tasks will help you achieve these goals, and which is the most effective and efficient order for completing them. 
(If you want to learn more about Smart90, there is an opportunity to get a free copy of the Entrepreneurial ScaleUp System book - only pay P&P - at the end of this article.) 

Delegating the things you are not good at 

During the early stages of scaling a business, you need to delegate the things you are not good at or should not be doing. This is a big challenge, I know, but you need to stop having a hand in every function of the business as soon as you can. 
The obvious place to start is those areas where you don’t have the expertise or where someone else is more effective than you. Your time, leadership, and vision are not best placed on tasks which take you longer due to your lack of familiarity, or that you can’t complete as well due to limited knowledge 

Delegating the things you think you are the best at 

This is where it gets interesting. To progress beyond the 8–12 employee level, you need to be able to remove yourself as the bottleneck. It’s time to break free from the typical ‘owner’s trap’ where you are the centre of everything. 
For your business to grow successfully, you need to develop leaders ‘behind’ you. In order to develop these leaders, you have to find ways to delegate even the things you think only you can do in the business or that no one else could do better. If you don’t do this, you and your business will hit a ceiling. 
Our ScaleUp research found that ‘Getting staff to think and act for themselves and take responsibility the way you would’ was the number one challenge for businesses beyond £500k turnover and cited as a top 5 challenge by 53% of owner-managers with turnover between £500k and £1m, 71% between £1m and £3m, and 82% between £3m and £5m! 
Without delegation, there is no opportunity for staff to learn to take responsibility the way you would. Delegation of authority and accountability is possible. 

Identifying what to delegate in your business 

To identify what to delegate in your business, try using the Teachability Value Matrix. This is a simple way of thinking about where you should be spending your time as the business owner and/or manager. 
Think of all the things you do in your business and plot them on this matrix. If a task requires a high level of skill or is difficult to teach to someone else then it goes higher up the Y-axis. If the task delivers real value to the business over the long term then it goes further to the right on the X-axis. The converse is true for tasks of low value and low skill level. 
For example, posting on social media is arguably relatively easy to teach and perhaps of a lower skill level than other tasks. In comparison to other business activities, this task may also have a relatively low strategic value. As a result, it should be plotted somewhere in the bottom left box. 
By contrast, setting the vision and purpose of the business is something that pretty much only you can do and, therefore, has low teachability. As it underpins all you do, it has a very high strategic value. So, it will be plotted somewhere in the top right box. 
This exercise will help you identify what you need to get off your plate. It will also help you decide how to go about passing on tasks: teaching, delegating, outsourcing, or hiring new team members - to name a few. Clearly, the tasks you’ve added to the bottom left box should represent the low-hanging fruit and are a great place to start. 
Going forward, use the Teachability Value Matrix to identify at least one task each quarter that you are going to stop doing and delegate instead. This could be a specific task or an entire function – but over time you should be actively removing yourself from day-to-day tasks. This will leave you more time to focus on leading the vision and overall strategy of your business. 
Are you wondering if your Strategy is ready to ensure your business will grow and scale successfully? Take our FREE Strategic Thinking and Leadership Scorecard today. You’ll get a personalised report and a free copy of our highly-rated book, The Entrepreneurial ScaleUp System (only pay P&P). Here’s the link: 
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