November 2010 Archives

We are often told that we need to delegate.  We hear “You’re not good at delegating” or “You need to work on delegating.”  But for many, this seems to be nearly impossible.  It seems to them that almost everything needs to be done by them personally.  From experience they know that if they try to delegate it, it either doesn’t get done or it takes more work to deal with the confused staff they assigned it to than if they had just done it themselves originally.  Soon, the owner has all the work of the office stacked up on their desk.  When they look at it realistically there isn’t much they feel they CAN delegate.  And in a way this is true… or at least true according to their current methods of organization and management.

Yet without delegating, the owner rapidly becomes overworked.  There’s too much to do and it becomes impossible to keep up.  No matter how late the owner stays, no matter how fast the owner works, it never gets done.  In fact, in many cases if the owner does work in one part of the company (say marketing), this just means an overwhelm in another part of the company (in this case, delivery or treatment).  Thus the bigger a company gets, the more work develops and the more impossible it gets to run.

This one factor can stop all expansion.  Who wants to expand when it just means more hassle, less time with family and later nights?  If success equals overwhelm, this makes it look pretty bad to grow any business above a certain level.  Many business owners actually limit their expansion at this point.  Without realizing it, they instinctively “know” that to get bigger could be dangerous or unpleasant for them and so unconsciously stop themselves from getting bigger.

Delegating is the only real solution.  For long-term growth—or even just a peaceful existence at the current level—one MUST figure out how to effectively delegate and turn over functions to the others below one.  This factor is a secret of success.  Let’s go over some facts about the subject of delegating to others.

Delegation becomes difficult or impossible in the presence of a couple of factors.  One of these is untrained staff.  Another is unwilling or totally negative staff.  Another of these factors is staff who lack stably assigned duties (exact job descriptions).

Let’s look at each one of these.

One of the hardest things to do is give instructions or directions to unwilling, totally negative staff.  No matter what you tell them to do, they manage to say no.  They somehow prove that it’s impossible.  Wittingly or unwittingly, everyone has had experience with this type of staff member.  Even if they act willing and receptive, they really refuse to work.  If you give a task to them they will find a way to show you how it can’t be done, or will require a week and great expense.  The same task given to a different staff member somehow gets done in 5 minutes.  Experience and training have very little to do with this situation.  It is simply that particular staff member is negative and unwilling.

What is the solution for such a person?  How do you handle them?  The answer is… you don’t.  You fire them.  No matter what you do, it really won’t go anywhere.  Your office will be better in the long run because they are pretending like they’re part of the team while actually making the goals of the group seem impossible to achieve to everyone around them.

Now, the next thing that makes it hard for the owner to delegate is the untrained staff member.  This is probably the number one reason why people can’t delegate.  The owner is trying to give instructions to someone who just flat out doesn’t know how to execute them.  It’s like asking a person off the street to fly a Boeing 747.  It doesn’t matter how good his intentions are; if he’s not trained as a pilot, that plane isn’t going anywhere.  An untrained staff member can be quite deceptive.  Because they are willing, good guys, they seem like they should be able to do whatever you throw at them.  However, the truth is that they just don’t know how.  It will just be frustrating for everyone, because they really would like to help—they want to do the right thing—but they don’t understand the nuances of what needs to be done and so end up either messing it up or constantly coming back asking for help.

What’s the answer to such a person?  Simple: train them.  Most business owners greatly underestimate the effort, time and energy that must be invested in training staff and somehow just expect them to sort of “absorb” their job and duties.  However, it actually requires forthright dedication and patience to bring that new staff member up to the point that they really understand the job.  After all, how many years have you been doing this?

Exactly.  To expect them to be at the same level of understanding (or even close) without intensive, careful training is unrealistic.  In every office and every business, a continuous, detailed program of staff training must occur for the staff to do well and for the business to expand.

Another extremely common cause of difficulty in delegating is a lack of assigned duties.  This typically means that everyone in the office sort of does everything.  There aren’t clearly laid-down, exact duties that each staff member is responsible for and sticks to.  Many times each staff member is part of the team but doesn’t have a specifically defined JOB.  When this happens, the owner invariably winds up with EVERYTHING on their plate.  All problems, all decisions, all plans… they all go to the owner because they’re the only one with a stable job description.  If someone needs something, they look around and at least know, “Well, he’s the boss.”  The owner then has to stop what he’s doing and decide which staff member to use, then assign him the task.

The problem with this is that the owner has to continually handle every decision in the entire place.  Also, the problem is that the owner doesn’t really know who to go to for what because there is no organizational structure.  It gets very difficult to delegate anything to the staff because no one really has any jobs.  More often than not the owner doesn’t even think to delegate.  In this “system”, it works like this: the owner handles all traffic and tasks that come into the business and the staff wait for orders.  However, the owner is simply too overworked handling the mountain of confusion that he doesn’t even have time to THINK about issuing orders.

What’s the solution to this?  Quite simple.  One has to decide exactly who does what and get it fully understood by everyone in the place. This includes getting a chart up that defines all the duties and who does them.  This helps all the employees to know who to go to for what.  It also tells the owner who he sends the different types of work to.  With a chart up that delineates the exact duties of the office, delegating becomes a breeze.

…as long as they know their jobs.

…and as long as they’re not unwilling negative staff.

With a workable system of management in place, employees who have assigned duties and who are trained for their jobs, a business owner is then free to do HIS job, plan for the future and… maybe take some time off.

At Hanses Management, we are experts in staff training, organization and management systems.  Those things an owner never has time to do are the exact things that can make or break a company.  They can cost an office hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in lost revenues.  They are also very easy to fix.  Let us help you train your staff and set up your organization.  With practical systems that are workable in the real world, we enable you to do what you want to do in life—not just what you have to do.


Mark Hanses

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