Successful Delegation to Drive Business Performance

Successful Delegation to Drive Business Performance 1024 536 Rock Creek Consulting Group

As Accountants, we like to see our Clients operating at high levels of efficiency and generating healthy profits.

Many businesses invest a significant amount in human resources, including compensation, recruiting, training and benefits, so it’s important to use these resources wisely.

One thing that prevents leaders from getting the most from their teams is the failure to delegate work. The most successful leaders might demonstrate boldness, clarity, flexibility, consistency, and communication skills, but the ability to delegate is high on the list.

What do we mean by delegation?

Delegation occurs when one team member requires another (usually a subordinate) to take on one or more of their tasks.

Why would we delegate?

The main reasons are:

  • Productivity: The delegating team member is now free to take on other tasks, presumably tasks that add more value to the business. This enables growth and efficiency.
  • Skills: Some people are more skilled at certain tasks than others. Wherever possible, we want tasks allocated to the most skilled people because they will get the best outcomes.
  • Training: One way to learn a new skill is to practice it. Specific tasks can be delegated in order to develop the skills of other team members.

So why is delegating difficult?

Delegating means taking risks. Some people won’t succeed at tasks delegated to them. That causes frustration for your team and maybe your customers. Time is wasted if tasks need to be redone. This encourages the philosophy that ‘I may as well just do this myself. It’ll be quicker.

What are some Best Practices in delegation?

This has been studied at length by prominent thinkers such as Dr. Stephen Covey and others. Here are some ideas that may apply to delegation in your business.

1. Explain why the task is important

Delegation is more likely to succeed when people understand and acknowledge the IMPORTANCE of the task. On the other hand, a feeling that the task is irrelevant or something you just don’t WANT to do will encourage the wrong results. Explain WHO will benefit, like colleagues, the entire business, your customers, your vendors, etc., and HOW they will benefit. The more measurable the benefits, the better.

2. Play to the team member’s strengths

Delegate to people who are likely to succeed with that task. There are never guarantees… and sometimes it’s appropriate to delegate challenging tasks. However, delegation is probably not the best course if there’s a strong chance of failure.

3. Set the rules or guidelines

Delegation often fails when the scope of the task is poorly defined. Compare these examples:

Please get together all of the financial reports for my upcoming board meeting. Thanks.

And

Please get together all of the financial reports for my upcoming board meeting. The priority is the P&L and Balance Sheet, and we won’t need the Cash Flow Analysis. I want to check over the P&L before you send it to all six board members. This should be complete by Friday morning at the latest. Please ensure the logo is correct and at the top right of each document. Thanks.

4. Provide resources

Building on the above example:

Take a look at the reports we used last month, and please stick to that format. Jim can help with accessing the financials in the accounting system if you run into problems. Mary has the updated board member list. I’m always here if you run into any difficulties.

5. Make the outcomes measurable

You want to be very clear about when the job will be complete and when the goal will be reached. Here’s a bad example:

Can you look into software that we could use for an Employee Survey?

For one thing, there is no deadline, and the instruction will trigger many questions. Is there a budget? Or any specific functionality we ‘must have’? What’s the timing for deployment? What’s wrong with the software we used last time? What did we learn from that experience?

The point is it’s difficult to create accountability unless you have some clear, measurable outcomes. And accountability is good for both parties.

6. Show there are consequences

Be clear on what will happen (good and bad) if the task is completed (or not completed) properly. You want your colleague to feel invested in the outcome. They should share in the project’s success and be responsible for failure. This will lead to a more focused and diligent approach.

7. Put things in writing (and follow up)

Getting it in writing, including documenting why the task is important, and how to get it done, reduces the possibility of confusion and creates a record of your request. For repeatable tasks, you can also build a template that can be reused.

8. Trust!

Everyone starts somewhere. Even the most accomplished people have failed at certain tasks previously. But somehow, they learned, probably because someone entrusted a task to them. Mistakes will be made, and patience may be required. A good leader will understand the risk associated with the task and manage this carefully. They will also recognize that there is great value in empowering an employee to do something independently.

Undoubtedly, most managers could delegate a lot more work, which would free them to focus on more productive tasks. That’s good for them and the business as a whole. It’s also good for the Accountants who like to see more profitable clients!!