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The Entrepreneurial Mind

When starting a business, delegate, delegate, delegate

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking that no one can do a job as well as they can. But a business can't grow without successful delegation.

By Guest blogger / March 14, 2012

Brigham Young forward Brandon Davies (L) passes the ball as he is pressured by Iona guard Lamont Jones (2) during the second half of their NCAA men's college basketball tournament game in Dayton, Ohio, March 13, 2012. In business as in sports, surrounding yourself with a team you can trust to take on certain tasks is essential, while trying to do it all yourself will lead to failure.

Matt Sullivan/Reuters

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But delegating often turns out to be easier said than done. There are three common mistakes that entrepreneurs can make when delegating.
The first mistake is being hesitant to delegate.

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Jeff is the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

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When first beginning to delegate to employees, some entrepreneurs feel that no one can do what they do as well as they can do it.
Employees don't seem to care quite as much as the entrepreneur does. After all, this is your business, and your reputation is tied to its success. To employees it is simply a job.

To overcome this hesitancy to delegate, entrepreneurs should remind themselves that sometimes "good enough is good enough."
While employees may not carry out the tasks delegated to the level of perfection you would, they can learn to perform these tasks well enough for the business to run smoothly and for customers to stay satisfied.

The second mistake is rushed delegation.

Rather than being hesitant to delegate, entrepreneurs who make this mistake seem as if they can't wait to get tasks off their plates. We see this quite often with serial entrepreneurs who are so eager to get to their next new business idea that they don't take the time to get their current one running properly before moving on.
These entrepreneurs delegate without providing proper training and without giving clear expectations for performance.

In the rush to delegate, tasks and responsibilities can also end up being assigned to the wrong person or even to multiple people simultaneously. This can lead to chaos and frustration.

To overcome rushed delegation, develop a clear and detailed plan that includes what needs to be delegated, whom should be assigned the task and what needs to be done to prepare employees for their new responsibilities.

This plan should be reviewed by everyone to makes sure nothing is left out.

The third mistake is undermining the delegation process.

Even after the delegation of tasks and responsibilities, employees will still tend to want to go directly to the entrepreneur to get an answer to a question or to make a decision instead of the person now assigned to that area. If the entrepreneur answers that question or makes that decision, it will completely undermine the authority of the person it has been delegated to.

I developed my "seven-second delay" to avoid this mistake. When I was asked for an answer or a decision I would always pause for a few moments to ask myself, "Is this still my responsibility or have I delegated this to someone else."

If I had delegated it, I'd answer by sending them to the employee to whom I had given that responsibility.

Delegation is a lot like raising teenagers. At some point you have to begin to let go so they can learn -- and grow up. With your business, if you don't learn to let go and delegate, it will never successfully "grow up" to the next stage of development.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on www.drjeffcornwall.com.

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