During a podcast recording with a dog trainer and small business owner last week, we talked a little bit about how hard it is to let someone else handle some of the daily tasks of running a company, even when you know that delegation will help spur growth and keep you focused on doing the things that you really love.
Part of the problem with becoming comfortable with delegation is that, as a small business owner, it’s YOUR name and reputation on the line if one of your employees goes off script. Even if you can honestly say to a client “XYZ incident wasn’t MY fault,” you will still lose their confidence because YOU are the one who chose a poor representative. No matter what you do as a small biz owner, everything ultimately redounds upon you – credits as well as debits.
(BTW, you should never throw an employee under the bus during damage control. You’ll still lose client confidence over the incident in question, and your client will see also you as someone who can’t be trusted on any level. It’s also terrible for staff morale. There is no upside in that scenario.)
Delegation is a two piece puzzle:
1) Identifying trustworthy people, and
2) Learning to let go.
The first thing you have to do before you can begin delegating is find the right people. If you have the luxury of time, use it to watch your current employees’ performance and capacity for good decision making. It’s a trite but true saying that cream always rises to the top. Watch to see who steps up to the plate when it matters, and who makes consistently good choices.
If you’re in a crunch scenario and have to hire someone to be in a position of responsibility, make sure you call their references and ask every question you can legally ask about past performance. Don’t fall for slick interview patter! If their resume shows a history of increasing responsibility over time, it’s usually a good sign. Once the person is in place at your company, put more weight on what they actually do rather than what they say they’re going to do. And don’t be slow to remove them if they don’t demonstrate the capacity to do the work. (As I always say – hire slow, fire fast.)
The next post will focus on the really hard part – letting go.