There’s a difference between delegating and abdicating responsibility for what happens inside your company. I’ve seen many business owners “hand off” activities to team members who were not skilled enough, not experienced enough, or simply didn’t care enough to drive the desired outcome.
That’s called delegating and disappearing. And you don’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole.
What tasks can you not delegate as a manager (or CEO)?
I’m not suggesting you have to schedule your own meetings or process invoices yourself. But as the business owner, you own the big stuff.
Namely, you own culture and key relationships. I’ve even gotten involved with insurance policies and putting together the financial models for my own companies.
Do I like doing that stuff? Not particularly.
Why do I do it? Because I understand that nobody cares about the business the way I do. Even the best employees don’t have the same level of ownership as the actual business owner. (One way to circumvent this issue is to make them feel like owners, but that’s a topic for another day.)
• If a key client is having an issue, I’m the one who gets on the phone.
• If a big partner is having a problem, I’m the one who calls the meeting.
• If we need to close a big deal, I make damn sure I’m in the room.
What are the things that could harm your business if they go sideways? Those are the areas where you need to be jump in and massage the situation if needed.
Should you have to? Maybe not. But ultimately, I’m not prepared to let my company fall apart to prove that something isn’t technically my job.
When it comes down to it, every entrepreneur has to carry their own bag.
Now, here’s how to do that without micromanaging or totally losing your mind. :)
How to problem-solve without getting stuck solving the problem
As strange as it sounds, that’s the goal here. You want to jump in and get the key problem solved, but try to do it without solving the problem yourself.
You do that by being a coach, a mentor, and an advisor. Yes, you are Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid. (I’m of a certain age, what can I say?)
Let the Employee You Delegate to Take Accountability
If you’re working through an issue with an employee who technically should own the problem, don’t take accountability for them. Rescue the situation to the extent that you need to, but let them handle the follow-up and final resolution.
Know When to Help Your Team After You Delegate
If you’ve got the right team, you’ll have to jump in and nudge things a few times per quarter. If it’s happening all the time, you may have a people problem. (If you think you have a people problem, find out more about when it’s the right time to fire an employee.) But a good CEO is inherently involved in balancing those relationships. That IS the high-level work you’re supposed to be doing.
Still thinking: “I shouldn’t have to do that? That’s what my team is for.”
I get it. So ask yourself why you need to come in and save things. Does the person who needs rescuing have a gap? Is the gap trainable? Have they been appropriately trained/empowered to solve this problem without you?
Those are important questions—but please, ask them after you save the situation! If the stakes are really high, the right thing to do in the moment is jump in.
The biggest hurdle for entrepreneurs here is really the attitude around these situations. If you can reframe to see your involvement as crucial in certain moments, you’ll see better outcomes and be a lot happier, too.