How to Become a Master of Delegation

Cody McLain


One of the biggest challenges for most business owners or entrepreneurs is learning when to relinquish control over a certain aspect of their business and hand over the responsibility to someone...

One of the biggest challenges for most business owners or entrepreneurs is learning when to relinquish control over a certain aspect of their business and hand over the responsibility to someone else. You want your business to succeed, and because it’s your brainchild, it can feel as if every single aspect of it should be managed by you. But, as you’ll quickly learn, that’s impossible. You can only experience a limited amount of growth if you refuse to delegate because there is a limit to your time — and your skills.

It’s true: you are not excellent at everything. And even some of the things that you are truly excellent at shouldn’t be handled by you. There will come a point in your business when you realize your time is better served elsewhere, and that’s when you have to become a master of delegation.

What is a master of a delegation? It’s someone who knows how to delegate the right tasks to the right people in the right way and at the right time. Most of us aren’t born delegators — especially if you’re a Type A perfectionist — but, luckily, it’s a skill you can learn.

The first step you’ll have to take is a mindset shift (isn’t it always?). Don’t see delegating as a shifting of responsibility or a way for you to be lazy; instead, the need to delegate is a sign that your company has grown beyond just one person’s capabilities, which is always the ultimate sign of company growth (beyond profit).

Once you’ve accepted that, here’s how to approach delegation:

1. Create Realistic Expectations

The employee or contractor you hire will not approach or complete the work in the exact same way you do. Depending on the responsibility, there might be a learning curve where the new person tries to figure things out. They may eventually find an approach that’s even better than yours. What’s important is that you allow the person to take ownership of their new role, and that means you can’t be constantly micro-managing. Not only will this completely negate the point of delegating, because your time will still be occupied by the same task, but it will create unnecessary stress for you and your employee. Instead, create a realistic expectation for the task. What mistakes are forgivable? What outcomes absolutely most come about? Leave some room for error, and you and your employee will be much happier.

2. Give Detailed Instructions

Even if you have the most realistic expectations in the world, they still won’t ever be met if you don’t give your employee clear and detailed instructions. It’s important that you give them the opportunity to ask questions, and this means creating an air of understanding, where your employee won’t fear that you’ll think they’re an idiot if they need clarification or don’t immediately grasp the task. Similarly, also encourage your employee to come back to you if they have any questions and specify the best way to do so. Would you rather they called? Emailed? Make sure that it’s a way of contacting you that will not cause a huge disruption to your day, so that your more receptive to their questions. This will become less and less necessary as they take more responsibility, but for the first few times, factor this learning time into your schedule. In the long run, you will save a lot of time not doing the task yourself.

3. Create Milestones and Deadlines

By setting concrete milestones and deadlines, you give your employee a clear path to follow and you also schedule times to check in. This way, you can make sure the project is progressing as you need and want it to without hovering over your employee’s shoulder. Milestones also give your employee a chance to discuss any challenges they face or perhaps suggest an alternative way of approaching the project.

4. Pick the Right Person – And Trust Them

Don’t hastily pass along the task to the first person you think of or interview. Instead, consider what kind of skills the job requires and who has demonstrated the ability to do it well. This is also an opportunity to allow one of your existing employees to expand upon their responsibilities and step into a bigger role. When you’re confident that you’ve chosen the right person, it will be easier to allow them more free reign. They may approach the project completely differently from how you would do it, but when you trust that they know what they’re doing, you’ll give them the space to figure it out – and make mistakes.

5. Become a Mentor

Part of being a good leader is committing to teaching the people you lead. This doesn’t mean that your company is a dictatorship, in which every single employee reports exclusively to you. It does mean that you recognize the potential of your employees and guide them towards fulfilling it. When you delegate a task, you will quickly see that it’s not enough to just say, “Here, have at it.” You have to be willing to teach what you know and to be patient as they learn.

6. Delegate Authority

Remember that you’re not just delegating a task; you should also be giving your employee the increased responsibility to truly take ownership for that task. People will often live up to our expectations of them, so expect more of your employees. Don’t underestimate them.

Employee happiness can be a huge factor in your company’s success. You want people who are willing to be brand evangelists and are loyal to you, and one of the ways to achieve that is to give them the kind of responsibility and authority that allows them to feel integral to the company. So delegating will not only free up your time to focus on your key skills, it will also increase the happiness and loyalty of your employees.

Of course, you can also choose to delegate tasks by outsourcing to contractors outside your company. In many situations, this might be the best course of action because you eliminate some of the training time. It’s likely that the person you outsource to will be an expert in the area you need assistance in. In that situation, you will still follow many of the suggestions outlined in this article because you will have to teach the contractor about the specific requirements of your company. It’s also a good idea to build a longterm relationship so that you can outsource all tasks of this nature to the same person, and possibly even expand on their responsibilities as your company grows.