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Knowing When to Delegate as a Leader

By Townes Haas   |    December 21, 2015   |    11:42 AM

When entrepreneurs and other innovative professionals speak of leadership, these are usually conversations around courage, resiliency, confidence and determination. These are people who are in charge of their enterprise who revel in leading others to success.

What we don’t usually speak of in imagining leadership is delegation. The ability to wisely and effectively delegate is a skill that doesn’t attract a lot of attention and yet it is often one of the most crucial factors in entrepreneurial success. As someone with a founding role or major leadership position in a start-up, effective delegation is one of the keys to achieving your professional goals.

A person who insists on maintaining all control and authority is actually covering up for insecurity and often fails to even meet the definition of a leader. A leader is a person who manages time, resources and people, playing them all off each other as if they were pieces on a chessboard. A leader marshals all of these elements instead of trying to do everything and failing.

Many entrepreneurs do not do a very good job at delegating for some or all of the following reasons:

  • They are impulsive and fail to wait for answers and results.
  • They do not trust their subordinates to do something well.
  • They are perfectionists and believe their work is of higher quality than others.
  • They believe everything is urgent to a level that they don’t invest time in explaining things to others.

Delegating frees you up to tackle the truly important aspects of your startup.

An entrepreneur at the helm of a startup should be in charge of the overall direction of a team. This person is the one looking ahead, steering the course, and making needed corrections to avoid getting off track. But buried in the small details, an entrepreneur will lose sight of the big picture and fail to see that the mission is falling apart until it is too late.

How to Delegate Effectively

Here are some common-sense tips to knowing when to delegate effectively.

Pick the best people. The most effective delegation comes before you do any delegating at all. Choosing the best people for your team is a key element.

Delegate in a way that makes your team willingly accept the assignment. When you delegate effectively, your people should feel a sense of pride. Don’t delegate responsibilities that obviously should stay in your hands. Don’t delegate things that you’re not willing to do yourself if you could. When you delegate a task, explain to the team member why you chose them and why their talents are well-suited to the project. Compliments instill others with a sense of purpose.

Give ample freedom for the chosen team member to complete the task. Once you delegate a responsibility, you are placing your trust in that team member to carry out the task. Micro-managing a project will erode morale and impede productivity and creativity. You don’t need to know how they arrived at a solution. Let them do things in their own way.

Share in rewards and give credit and praise. When you delegate tasks to others, you cannot ask them only to share in the risk, and not the rewards. When a project is a success, a leader gives credit where credit is due. A smart entrepreneur treats his team members as real partners, listening to their feedback and respecting their ideas and opinions.

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