As a leader in any capacity—in your business, job, family, etc.— your primary responsibility is to grow other leaders.

To grow other leaders you must delegate leadership responsibilities.

Most leaders become paralyzed at the thought of delegating. Why? It’s usually one of three reasons:

  1. They’ve tried it before unsuccessfully so they’ve convinced themselves it’s not worth their time.
  2. They’ve never attempted it because they’re afraid by giving away their information, they’ll lose their edge and their elevated position with it.
  3. They’re shortsighted. Many who shy away from delegating will say something like, It will take me three hours to teach them when I can do it in 20 minutes. I don’t have the extra time right now, so I’ll just take care of it.

I struggled with delegating for many years. When I started my first company, I was convinced I was the only person who could effectively accomplish any given task. In my defense, it wasn’t because I thought I was smarter than everyone else, it was because I started the business, developed all of its processes and helped it grow. It was my baby. I knew all the ins and outs.

Sound familiar?

The problem was, I kept all the information in my head. I failed to document my processes so it wasn’t easy for anyone else to take them over. Because of that, I was constantly bombarded with, Hey, got a minute?

The constant barrage of got-a-minutes left me frustrated and irritated. I’d think to myself, Why can’t they do this without me? Why are they always asking me questions? Why am I the only one who can do that?

After years of failing to delegate, I was chronically unhappy. Further, my business was strong, but I was working far too many hours and there was no way to proceed with brute force alone. Something had to change.

Desperate for a solution, I devoured dozens of business books and sought the advice of successful entrepreneurs. It was then I learned the truth: My team wasn’t the problem, I was. I was working hard for the business’s aggrandizement. I was not working hard to build my team.

I follow these five delegation steps:

  • Make a list. Jot down your responsibilities that someone else could do. If you’re having trouble, start by asking yourself, What is the best and most impactful use of my time in my business? What is the one task or priority that would move my business forward faster if I had time to focus all of my attention on it? Once you’ve pinpointed this important activity, make a list of everything else on your to-do list that’s not your primary task. Find a way to transfer these other tasks to team members.
  • Ask for help. Let your team know why you need help and then ask for volunteers rather than assigning the task. It could go something like this: We as a business are aiming to be here, I must focus on x to get us there, you can help us reach these targets by accomplishing x,y or z. Which one can you help with? Explaining helps your team members understand exactly why their contribution is necessary. This gives their task meaning. Allowing your team members to select where they’d like to contribute gives them the option to tackle what they’re interested in. We always preform better when we’re interested. Plus, communication and choice transforms dictating into delegating.
  • Communicate the task. Once your task has an owner, make sure she is set up for success by clearly defining the task, the expected end result and a deadline. Let your team member know you’re there for any questions she may have along the way, but then remove yourself from the process.
  • Accept mistakes. Your rock star team members will succeed most of the time. But, understand they will make mistakes and even fail sometimes. If they don’t, you’re not pushing them to grow. When they do fail, your goal is to help them move past it quickly. Don’t allow the failure to crush the process.
  • Be okay with less-than perfect. Perfection is rarely reached. The good news, it’s rarely necessary and often subjective. Your team will never do it exactly as you would. That’s okay. Hey, your team member may do it better than you did. That’s great!

Being a great delegator takes time, commitment and consistency. Through the journey remember:

Your business cannot be great unless it can be great without you.


Originally published in The Tennessean.

photo credit: <a href=””>gingerpig2000</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>