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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin

𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗴𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗳𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗡𝗲𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗿𝘆

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

Leaders are told they should delegate, but not much else. The hardest part? The qualities which initially bring you success (tenacity, control, and attention to everything) later become obstacles when a company is ready to reach the next level.

When your time is disrupted from growing the company in ways you need to be involved (product development, revenue growth, fundraising), then likely you need to delegate more. The shift from doing to leading is daunting. As your responsibilities become greater and more complex, the difference between an effective leader and an amazing contributor with a leader’s title is painfully evident.

To reach the next level as a business you need to level up your leadership.

You may hesitate to share responsibilities because you want complete control or because delegation requires a new level of responsibility. At first, delegating is harder than simply doing the work yourself. To reach the next level, you may need to seek advice or coaching to push for peak growth.

Why does delegation help? Besides growing the company, it forces you to prioritize. Your team may be running around trying to put out a dozen fires, but you need them pushing the business forward. Currently, as a role model*, you may prioritize unthinkingly based on your actions. You can own the priorities by defining which behaviors and outcomes get rewarded for the company to grow.

Leaders don’t have all the great ideas; they provide support for those who want to contribute.
Leaders achieve very little by themselves; they inspire people to come together for the group.
– Simon Sinek, from "Start with Why"

You may have resistance as a leader for several reasons. First, other people can handle many responsibilities, in some cases better than you. Delegation will help apply more time, thought, and creativity to grow the business. Second, you may (unknowingly) hesitate because you want complete control. Realize that control will ultimately limit your impact in the market. Third, effective delegation tests leadership since you must clearly define expectations, guidelines, and desired outcomes. That is, others’ success often relies on you.

With all these considerations, know thyself. Explore your desire to reach the next level (you may be content at a certain size). If you do want to grow and that requires delegation, dig into your resistance and find ways to address it. For instance, if you like to know everything happening, that may not be possible, but ask the team leads to send you regular reports and hold recurring 1:1 meetings.

To reach the next level, you may need to level up your leadership. Seek advice or coaching if you genuinely want peak growth.

Who should help? Identify employees who indicate leadership (e.g. running projects without being asked), complement your skills and personality, and bring diverse ideas.

Assess your company’s strengths and weaknesses before filling roles. Ensure diversity for the best ideas. If there are many routes to the same destination, there are many personalities to help business grow. Orchestrate the right personalities to reach harmony.

It’s tempting to promote leaders who have been there the longest and the ones who are the most competent in their roles. However, management is a completely different skill set. Seek employees who have handled various responsibilities, shown proper leadership (at work or in the community). Also, realize that while many employees want to learn new skills, develop their leadership, and apply themselves differently, not everyone wants to leave their role as an operator. Respect that choice, and don’t push amazing contributors into a role they hate.

Optimal delegation also depends on your type of leadership personality (as mentioned in the section on Partnerships, but worth repeating here). Chris Kuenne and John Danner, in their book, “Built for Growth,” talk about four types of personalities: Driver (relentless, market focused, highly confident), Explorer (curious, systems-centric, dispassionate), Crusader (audacious, mission-driven, compassionate), and Captain (pragmatic, team-enabling, direct). Each personality type has effective and ineffective collaborations. Even though generalized, this understanding helps identify the gaps in your leadership team and how people will interact to encourage the best collaborations.

How to delegate starts with knowing why the responsibility is important and connects with the company’s vision. Emphasize the desired outcomes and note any restrictions to performing the work. In effective delegation, you are asking someone to own the results not only the tasks. Founders who have done the work until recently are tempted to describe exactly how to execute the role. However, allow for individual approaches if they continue to meet your standards on results. Ideas for efficiency or productivity may emerge.

In other words, don’t give people something to get done, give them something to work towards.

Keep engaged at the right level. You don’t want to micromanage or completely disengage. Ask to meet more frequently at first to help build trust. Later, shift ownership of that 1:1 meeting to the other person to set the agenda, show progress, and explain obstacles. If problems need to be addressed, make sure the person brings context, options, and a proposed recommendation. This will develop their leadership aligned with your vision and values.

I once worked with founders of a digital marketing company. To their credit, they built something from a $5K loan to a $3M business. They hired a number of directors to grow the business further. However, they fought to keep control. For example, they insisted on opening the mail themselves. To keep expenses down, they stopped a program rewarding employees 10% for every dollar raised above growing quarterly goals. In other words, they didn’t want to pay a dime for every extra dollar of growth. Finally, they would not settle disputes in prioritization and direction among those new directors. Eventually, seven of eight directors quit the company within a year and it closed a couple years later in an industry that grew exponentially.

You may delegate ownership for a team or project, but your responsibility now is to support that leader by providing the necessary resources, removing any obstacles, and sharing the long-term vision. Remember to look at lessons here as learning opportunities. When something does not go as expected, review what happened in the process and then focus on what steps will be taken to avoid a recurrence. The emphasis on learning will result in improvements, creativity, and collaboration which lead to growth.

To reach the next level, you need to share your vision and parameters so everyone is clear on their role. It’s like conducting an orchestra versus trying to play every piece.


* Refer to this post on being a Role Model:

Photo by Tatyana Kazakova who can be found here:

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