The mission driven entrepreneur, working as a one-man or one-woman show, will not survive unless he or she learns the golden rules of delegation.

If you’re a fledgling entrepreneur, assigning tasks to other people is a critical part of growing your business. It’s a dream to believe that you can handle all aspects of your business yourself. You can’t work alone – you need other people. If you can’t trust anyone other than yourself to do the work, then you will be working endlessly on the hamster wheel for a very long time.

So how do you begin to delegate tasks, not just to other people, but the best people? As an entrepreneur, it’s natural that you want to develop a wide range of skills. But as you work on your business, you’ll realize there are aspects you hate and aspects that you just weren’t born to do. Delegate those tasks to someone else first. If you aren’t good at accounting, hire or outsource an accountant.

When you have a set routine for the everyday tasks for your business, delegate those tasks too. In one sense, you are clearing your desk of all the clutter. When you aren’t focused on the day to day survival of your business, you will have the energy and time to see the big picture and to think about the bigger questions. Where is your business headed? What are some current challenges you need to overcome? What’s the next step to growing the business?

But until you start to delegate, you won’t have the mental and time capacity to work on the big picture and jump off the hamster wheel.

Here are eight golden rules of effective delegation that will make you a great leader and free up your time for other aspects of your business.

Rule 1: Clarify The Task In Your Own Mind

Clarify what the task is before you ask someone to complete it. There are some important questions to ask yourself. When you have the answers, then delegate the task. You can envision the task in the following way.

1. Who will do the task?
2. What is the deadline?
3. What exactly needs to be done?
4. What is the desired outcome?

After you have the answers in your mind, or written down, then assign the task. Be clear on what exactly needs to be done, such as the entire first draft for a Facebook ad, or a completed inventory of your products for that month. Also be clear on the outcome, such as completed inventory in a spreadsheet that will be presented at the next meeting.

Rule 2: Delegation To The Right Person

Now that you are clear on what needs to be done, your next step is to choose the right person for the task. The best person to choose is someone who is brilliant at doing that type of work. It might be someone you’ve hired for your team, or someone you are outsourcing work to. Here are some more specific tips for making your selection:

  • Delegate to someone who is task-focused and explain why this task is important
  • Delegate unusually challenging tasks to someone who has lots of experience and would like something different than the usual routine
  • Delegate routine tasks to someone who is extremely organized

Rule 3: Always Have A Deadline

If you don’t set deadlines, nothing gets done. It doesn’t mean your team is lazy. Sometimes they have so much to do that they need deadlines to help them prioritize what is more important. The deadline should be challenging but realistic.

Stretch the abilities of your team to see what they can do, but don’t ask them to do the impossible either! If I am working with a new person, and I need something done within two weeks, I tell them I need it in a week.

I want to see if the new person can get the job done and find out early on if they can work under pressure to complete urgent tasks.

Rule 4: Communicate Orally And Write Your Plan Of Action

Sometimes I only give the core structure of what I want and I let my mentees figure out a plan of action. I let them make their own mistakes. By making mistakes, they learn their lesson. If I watch them too closely, they won’t be able to grow.

So communicate your plan orally to your team and let them decide on what to do. To check on their progress, ask them to write progress reports. You can have them report once a week on Monday, or daily at the end of the day. The frequency depends on the person’s skills and their needs.

Clear communication will look like this: message sent to get the task done, message received by the person doing the task, and message acted upon, or completed.

Rule 5: People Don’t Do What You Expect, They Do What You Inspect With Respect

You may be clear with your expectations, you may be choosing to delegate to the best people for the job. In the end, people don’t necessarily do what you expect them to do. That’s the tricky part about delegation. They do what you check up on with extra attention. So what you inspect, they do with respect.

It means you have to follow up to make sure the task gets done even though it’s not your job.

Rule 6: Delegate Responsibility And Authority

As an entrepreneur, you may be willing to delegate responsibility but you may find it much harder to delegate responsibility and authority. You don’t want to give up authority because you fear loss of control.

You will ask someone to do a task but require that person to run everything by you. In that case, you are micromanaging. You need to be able to give other people some authority, even if it means letting them make mistakes. It’s the only way they learn and the only way you get off the hamster wheel.

Mistakes are okay as long as they don’t kill the company. Only incompetence is not okay. You may be wondering what the difference is between the two. Let me share a quick story.

The C.O.O. at my mentor’s company made a mistake that cost ten million dollars. My mentor had a meeting with him about the mistake. The C.O.O. thought he was going to be fired but my mentor said he had just invested ten million in the guy’s education. He kept his job and made sure he never screwed up again. The C.O.O. was extremely loyal and over time made my mentor one hundred million dollars.

So if you are afraid to give other people authority because you fear they’ll make mistakes, you need to let them make the mistakes. Otherwise, they won’t learn, and you will be very busy micromanaging your team.

Rule 7: Give Praise, Feedback And Additional Responsibilities At The End Of The Project

So the project has come to an end and you delegated tasks to other team members. At this point, you want to provide feedback on how they did. You want to be a coach and mentor.

Whatever you do, don’t yell at them. Praise them for what they did right and then give feedback on what they can do better. That’s how they learn.

Also, give them additional responsibilities for the next project. By delegating more tasks, you free up your time for other aspects of your business, and your team grows in experience.

Rule 8: Don’t Be A Perfectionist

If you are too much of a perfectionist, you will be the runner of a marathon who never leaves the starting line. You will never get anything started or finished. Your projects will never end because you are going crazy with the details.

Effective delegation is about progress, not perfection. Start your project, and do what you can, but don’t get stuck on all the small details of what you need to complete.

When you go to the bank, the teller or the bank machine isn’t going to ask if you completed your work perfectly. Your cheque just goes into your account.    

In the big scheme of things, if I’m facing a business problem that I find overwhelming, I look at this photo on my wall. It’s a picture of the universe. When I look at it, my stress disappears because I realize… I’m just a molecule. What’s the big deal? Nothing matters. I’m only here for 80 years. And then I’m not that important anymore. No one is that important. So don’t place so much importance on yourself to finish things.

Those are the rules of effective delegation. Now that you know them, here are three quick tips on how to find the best people to share your work projects.

Three Tips For Effective Delegation To The Best People

Tip 1: Respect them

Work together as a team and respect the people you have delegated with tasks. You can set high standards and expectations and be tough, and still have respect.

In some areas, their expertise will be better than yours which is another reason you should not be afraid to delegate. This is how your company will grow.

Tip 2: Pay them well

If you pay them well, you will have the best talent. If you can’t afford to find good people maybe your business model needs to be changed.

One Christmas I sent my contractors a bonus through PayPal. I got an email from them thanking me. The bonus moved me up on their client list. I want to represent 40% of their business so when I want stuff done, it gets done.

Don’t delay paying your team members and contractors. If you want to stand out with your clients and contractors, this is one way to do it. They should be making you returns because of how you treat them.

Tip 3: Praise them

I praise team members and contractors and anyone else if they do something well. Don’t just say, “Good job.” Be specific with your praise, such as telling them that you liked how they handled the situation and you appreciated the help.

Those are three tips for delegating to the best people. If you want to grow your business, then overcome your hesitation, and start delegating tasks to free up your time.

Summary of the 8 Golden Rules of Delegation

Delegating to the best people is key to getting yourself out of that hamster wheel and building a successful business. Richard Branson of Virgin Group says that if your team understands your vision and they work autonomously, “You’ll find that you have more time to focus on the big picture and achieve the things you need to do to make your product or service stand out.”

So here again are the 8 rules of delegation. You can also watch a recap of these rules of delegation and tips on how to hire in this video here.

Rule 1: Clarify the task in your own mind

Rule 2: Delegate to the right person

Rule 3: Always have a deadline

Rule 4: Communicate orally and write your plan of action

Rule 5: People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect with respect

Rule 6: Delegate responsibility and authority

Rule 7: Give praise, feedback and additional responsibilities at the end of the project

Rule 8: Don’t be a perfectionist


Have you started delegating? Comment below.



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