As Entrepreneurs we are constantly reinforcing a collectively shared delusion. Our innate character is convinced that this delusion helps us. In the short term it might, but the long term reality is that it serves only to feed our ego and ultimately hurt us in countless ways. Our Delusion is: we can do it better & we can do it all. (There is probably a whole boatload more of flaws we have in common; just ask our Partners, Friends, Families, Children and pets. But for today’s soapbox meanderings I shall be choosing the two above mentioned.)
Now combine these two traits with the fact that most of us are unabashed workaholics and what sometimes comes out can be a tad on the scary side. The picture in my head is a hodgepodge of a clearly deranged superhero, draped in a homemade cape, taking care of a failing nuclear facility as well as a litter of kittens that are caught up in a tree, prioritizing in order of whichever happens to come first. All the while planning what other super power they wish to roll out, brand and market next. Okay so it sounds a tad on the melodramatic side… sue me, I was raised on Latin Telenovelas, I write what I know.
All joking aside, for entrepreneurs, small or large this is a serious issue that can make us or break us when it comes to the continued success of our chosen endeavors. And if we ever wish to scale our enterprise up this is the key to that growth. These two traits are huge contributors to entrepreneurial burnout (a true and frequent enemy that is just lurking in the background waiting to take us out); laying us flat on our backs for agonizingly prolonged, mentally exhausting days filled without our drug of choice…work. Ultimately this boils down to one seemingly magical, over quoted, under implemented, generally misunderstood and often poorly executed word, DELEGATION.
This is an affliction suffered by those travelling up the corporate ladder as well, the only difference is that most larger companies have some procedures and policies in place to stop this from happening…not delegating I mean. I am sure that you know someone or are someone who repeatedly suffers at the hands of a boss, manager or decision maker that is clueless at delegating. Instead of fostering collaborative work environments you are all firefighters, simply working towards putting out the next fire ablaze on some desk, victims of dumping, blaming or micromanaging, because of the lack to truly understanding how to delegate.
Allow me to narrate a short parable that to this day I use on myself in order to remember why delegating is so important. Once upon a time I knew a highly successful entrepreneur who’s tech company was making $10-15 million dollars a year. They lived in a nice home, drove nice cars and there children attended private school. The embodiment of material success. Lets call this entrepreneur ICanDoEverySingleLittleThingyForMyBusinessUHHUHyesIcan. One day I stumble upon ICanDoEverySingleLittleThingyForMyBusinessUHHUHyesIcan and I asked how things were going and they shared with me that they are currently working on a business card and brochure redesign. I ask “whom are you using?” (I am always on the lookout for graphic artists as this had been a consistent struggle for me in the past) and turns out ICanDoEverySingleLittleThingyForMyBusinessUHHUHyesIcan had struggled in that department as well. So because of that struggle, they chose to spend the last week designing the brochure and business card themselves!!!! (Play dramatic piano music now) *Gasp* I was stunned, if I was Bambi’s mother and caught in headlights I would not have been as frozen as I was in that moment.
I could not believe it. This news would not sink in to my mind; how someone with the resources that ICanDoEverySingleLittleThingyForMyBusinessUHHUHyesIcan has at there disposal, would choose to spend there precious hours on something outside of there successful money producing skill set. Not to mention what could the end product possibly look like, used to represent a company of that value.
Now lets do a little math: with a guesstamite hourly rate of a modest(cough cough) $400 an hour, they had spent 8 hrs a day x 5 days = $16,000! That is what there new business card & brochure redesign had cost, minus the printing*@&*#$$**!!! Holy Guacamole Batman, where is the business logic in that??? Even to this day when I allow myself to recall that day, I still feel tightness in my chest at the idea that entrepreneurial stubbornness could cost that and more. And that’s only what we could measure with money! Imagine the opportunities, connections, networking, exposure and time which is just as valuable in there own way. OMG Lesson Learned…even highly successful entrepreneurs still fall for said delusion.
Oh and btw two more weeks went by of fiddling around with it until they relented and hired a professional, so add a few more zero’s to that number.
In thinking of this entry and with lesson’s of the past in mind, I poked around my Entrepreneurial networks, asking business owners big and small in order to better comprehend how delegation is understood
(ICanDoEverySingleLittleThingyForMyBusinessUHHUHyesIcan was unavailable for my survey). And without sounding trite, what I found was that Delegation is almost the business worlds equivalent of the word LOVE. We all have a personal checklist of what delegation looks like, yet those I asked struggled to define it but also report that they know when we see it. I found this too resembles a little of the struggle the definition of love has faced throughout the centuries. In my research I found love described not as an emotion or a state of being, but as a force in the universe. So can delegation be the force within your organization (Rarity, the art of delegation is young jedi) to lead you where you wish to go.
According to Gerald M. Blair’s Art of Delegation I was surprised to read that even ancient texts have covered the topic of delegation. Whether you are dealing with raising goats & trading spice or running an internet start up & Chipotle working lunches, the struggle is real.
Mr. Blair outlines the three things needed to have someone do a job for you:
- They know what you want done
- They have the authority to achieve it
- They know how to do it
Others boil it down to two items, Processes or Projects. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of whats out there on delegating.
The people at Easywk came up with a snazzy infographic The Entrepreneurs Guide to Delegation (I love infographics, if its on an infographic it must be true, no? But it looks so pretty and researched and organized. Did I actually just say that out laud) that is a wonderful example of how delegation applies to your administration.
I myself delegate my bookkeeping, because honestly I think watching people whom are watching paint dry is more exciting then doing my books. Could I do them? Yes. Would I be great at them? Probably not, but they would get done. I also delegate my cleaning. I love and appreciate a clean home, but I simply take too long to do it. It makes more sense to work during that time and delegate my cleaning to some other hard working entrepreneur that is fantastic at it and has it down to a science; that way we both end up working on what we do best.
I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I own a business where my job is to gain and maintain my clients trust so they continue to delegate ongoing tasks to my team. Learning to allow yourself to entrust tasks into the care of others isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of understanding your strengths and focusing on them; the ideal embodiment of entrepreneurship. The key is to fully integrate the importance of delegation and set it into practice through out your life; allowing you to have the ability, when you chose to sit back and truly enjoy the fruits of your labour.
So, what is a task in your business that has to get done and could be delegated? What action pieces have repetitive steps that don’t require your “unique stand out from the business crowd expertise” to be completed but just need to get done? Which items on your busy to do list would you rather watch people who are watching paint dry then complete? Regardless of how you see it or how you practice it, we need to remember (holding back the tears and repeating in unison) “we can’t always do it better and we can’t always do it all (that was so hard to type, no joke it really was).
I would love to hear how delegating works for you? Have you picked up any nuggets of wisdom on asking others for help and communicating those needs?