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Better Business Idea # 23

Delegate or Die!

© 1999 by Michael C. Gray

March 29, 1999

A severe weakness of many entrepreneurs is the inability to delegate.

Since many people who start a business are excellent technicians for their industry, it is difficult for them to let the work go. They are proud of their capabilities and they know no one can do it as well or as efficiently as they can.

Unwittingly, they are creating huge burdens for themselves. Their lives become consumed by their businesses. They can't handle every task themselves. They are also limiting the growth of their business, because one person can only do so much. Finally, by not creating successors for themselves, they are assuring the death of their business when they retire or die. (See our book review on The E Myth.)

Entrepreneurs must learn to accept that their employees don't need to perform the task as well as they do to do the job that is required. By creating systems and training employees to perform the tasks that are required, or by outsourcing the tasks to outsiders who can perform them well and cost-effectively, the entrepreneur makes time available to perform his or her most important work – creating, leading, and managing the enterprise.

Delegation also enables the entrepreneur to give attention to other areas in his or her life, including nurturing relationships and caring for his or her personal health, that would otherwise be neglected, leading to divorce, unhappy children, and an early death.

Steven Covey gives an excellent model for delegation, which he calls "stewardship delegation," in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. We have previously described this model in our summary of the chapter, "First Things First."

First the delegator must communicate a clear, mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished, focusing on what, not how. Next, identify the human, financial, technical or organizational resources the person can draw on to accomplish the desired results. Set up standards of performance to be used to evaluate the results and specify when reporting and evaluation will take place. Specify the consequences, good and bad, as a result of the evaluation.

When entrepreneurs learn to delegate, they are learning a skill that can help "take the brakes off" their organizations and create businesses that contribute to, instead of consuming, their lives.

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