Oftentimes entrepreneurs are hesitant to delegate tasks to others in their organization even when they are overworked and less effective because they do not. This resistance may go hand in hand with the typical entrepreneurial personality. Traits like the inability to relinquish control, a sense of urgency, an analytical nature, and being results-oriented may explain why some entrepreneurs have difficulty delegating.

The very thing that helped them start a business – the ability to develop a concept and to turn it into a viable entity – may actually get in the way when it comes to delegation. The entrepreneur quite frequently is very competent and confident, with an attitude of, “if you want something done right, do it yourself!” Regardless of the truth in this, the result is that relinquishing control can be very difficult.

Entrepreneurs are imbued with a sense of purpose. They are driven to make the business work and, therefore, feel a sense of urgency when it comes to seeing results. This impatience often leads to a desire to do everything themselves so that tasks are completed more quickly. There is a lack of trust that anyone else will take the completion of the task as seriously as it should be taken.

Being problem-solvers that are constantly observing and analyzing, entrepreneurs may know the solution to any given situation before anyone else. When delegating work to others, they probably already have an idea of how the work should be done, even as they explain the situation to someone. This forethought is valuable, but it serves to sabotage the individual to whom the task is assigned. Hearing it for the first time, they can never catch up to the entrepreneur’s understanding of what should be done. The best possible outcome for that individual is that the entrepreneur will at least give them the time to deliver their own solutions before he jumps in with suggestions!

Entrepreneurs tend to be results-oriented causing them to place more credence on accomplishments, sometimes at the expense of people’s feelings. The mindset is that the work must get done and there is not time for coddling, coaxing, or coaching employees. This trait can cause a rift between the entrepreneur and employees. In addition to personal traits that contribute to the lack of delegation is the financial reality that employees may not have any financial resources invested in the success of the business, other than their paycheck. The owner, on the other hand, stands to lose much more if one or many tasks are not completed either successfully or on time. The cumulative effect of several of these smaller failures can be devastating. Obviously, delegation should be used carefully since ultimate responsibility rests with the business owner.

The problem with lack of delegation is exacerbated as a business starts to grow. Frequently, business owners hire employees to help with the growing demands of the business, only to find they are unable or unwilling to delegate the work! This common management crisis is one that must be addressed in order for the business to develop into the more organized structure that is necessary to sustain continued growth. Add to this the danger of delegation when it is done poorly. It can cause confusion, demotivation, and even failure! Many times, business owners simply need to be made aware of the fact that they are struggling with delegation and the harm it is causing. Other times they may need information about how to correctly delegate.

The most apparent benefit from successful delegation is that it offloads the business owner, freeing him or her up to handle aspects of the business that may be neglected. It also provides a wonderful training opportunity that can be used to help employees develop professionally. Remember that if tasks are not delegated to employees it is impossible for them to earn the trust that can only be gained by successful completion of these tasks.

The keys to successful delegation are:

  1. Careful planning of what is to be done and who is best suited to do it.
  2. Clear communication of why the task is important, and what is expected, including outcomes, reporting, and timeframes.
  3. Feedback mechanisms in place for ascertaining what worked and what did not work and rewarding good or correcting bad performance.

In general, someone delegating should carefully think about what exactly the task involves, decide who is best qualified to handle it, tell them how the task fits into the big picture, inform specifically what is expected and when, monitor performance, and provide feedback.

(Source: Donna L. Robinson)