I am the CEO of a small business, and learning the art of delegation has proven to be the most critical lesson to my company’s growth, workplace satisfaction, and work product standardization.
What was the best advice you’ve gotten about delegating work? I was mentored by an executive at the Coca Cola corporation who taught me that, to grow my business into a national brand, I must create a reliable and consistent experience for the end-user. Why are customers loyal to Coke? They are loyal because they like it. Naturally, they expect it to be the same every time they buy it. They would be disappointed if it weren’t. I had to handle my brand the same way. But how was I to grow my small bookkeeping business with three bookkeepers and 30 clients into a national brand that delivered a reliable product and service? By delegating the work to the team and making it easy to duplicate.
What made it so valuable? When I fully adopted her way of thinking, it made my refusal of non-conforming clients easy. Instead of trying to change our processes to meet their needs, I was able to tell them that I did not believe we would be able to meet their needs. Thereby eliminating any clients that were looking to run the show themselves, deviate from our established standards for quality, or make demands that caused us to be inefficient. That left me with a client base that valued our service and was pleased to work with us. It also helped me to define for our sales team what we do and what product our clients can expect when they engage us. This training on the sales side helped us to avoid unfit clients in the future. Now we were ready to grow….but how was I going to teach all those Bookkeepers how I wanted the work done? I couldn’t do it one at a time, so I created precise instruction sets that were combined to become our operating manuals for the positions within our organization.
How would you rate your ability to delegate? Why? My ability to delegate is excellent. I think a major hurdle to delegation is the idea that ‘I can do it better and faster, so I may as well get it done.’ Of course, you can, but that is a self-defeating and task-oriented mentality. What happens when that same situation arises again – as surely it will repeat itself if your department or company is growing – and this time you don’t have the bandwidth to get it done? Now you have become the problem – not the solution. I always suggest my managers do everything at least once, so they can understand the concepts and steps involved in any given task. Once they know it, they need to create an instruction set and delegate the task. When we delegate, we either record it in a manual or instruction set or record the training in video format, which can be shared with anyone who needs to do that task in the future. Yes, this takes a lot more time than doing it yourself but is much better for the team and the company.
What do you wish you could improve about your delegation skills? I need to be careful to express the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ when I delegate a task. I find that if I explain the purpose behind the task, team members will carry the torch and be more studious about quality and timeliness. They take ownership of it, and often they will improve upon the instructions to make the task more efficient or find overlap benefits in other areas.
What do you have trouble with? What have the consequences been? Since ours is a small business, I have the propensity to wear all the hats. I want to know what’s going on in every area and I want to learn about each facet before I decide who is best for the job. The cure for this is to remember that I have qualified, intelligent, dedicated staff members on the team, and they want what’s best for the company as well. When I resist the urge to be involved and instead delegate the learning curve and team selection decision to someone else, the flow begins again, and we can move forward on more fronts than ever before.
How do you choose the right person to whom to delegate a task? One of the keys to delegation is the creation of Quality Control checks that allow you to decide if the work is completed properly and on time. Good, strong QC checks will help you avoid a culture of micro-management. I will typically choose the person who can do the task most efficiently, and then I will select another person to whom they have to be accountable. The accountability partner receives data from the task performer, and the sign that something is amiss is the absence of communication or data. In this passive role, that person can oversee a multitude of tasks and offer support when and where needed to get something back on track.
Once you build the processes and QC stops for each position, delegation is not a problem, and the future growth of a department or business is reliant on adding new clients and new team members.About Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual bookkeeping, providing service to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud-hosted desktop where their entire team and tax accountant may access the QuickBooks™️ file, critical financial documents, and back-office tools in an efficient and secure environment. Complete Controller’s team of certified US-based accounting professionals provide bookkeeping, record storage, performance reporting, and controller services including training, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, process and controls advisement, and bill-pay. With flat-rate service plans, Complete Controller is the most cost-effective expert accounting solution for business, family-office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity.