Letting Go: Trusting in Delegation

In running a small business, you as the owner might have a problem trusting your team. It’s not necessarily because you don’t have faithFishing Boat-10 in the skills of the team, but mainly because as owners, we tend to believe we’re the only one that can do the job right. This thinking is harmful to the fiber of your business. Why? Because your team starts believing that they are powerless, instead of powerful. They operate more pensively, and tend to come to you constantly for guidance on even the smallest of tasks, fearing they can’t move without your knowledge or direction. After all, you know it all, right? This is an exhausting and debilitating way to conduct business, for everyone.

Boiled down, I call it the “truck theory” – you’ve heard variations of this, but it simply means that if you (the controlling force in your business) get hit by a truck, with you lies all the knowledge and skills that go into running your business. Will the business fail if you’re absent or will your employees be able to carry on for a little while without your presence? Can your team run your business without you controlling it 24/7/365? If you answered, “No”, then more delegation is likely not only necessary, but critical. Here are a few tips to help you navigate this new terrain:

  • Make a Action/People List: Include all things that you can do, but that can also easily be done by people on your team. Be specific on who can handle what, based on their skillset. CAUTION: Consider the person’s skillset before assigning. You are going for success here.


  • Chart for All to See: Who’s doing what, who’s in charge of what? Let your entire team know, so they know who to go to for answers on a given task. This will infinitely reduce interruptions in your day and that of others.
  • Set the team in motion: Delegate small things first, then move to bigger things. This gives your team member an opportunity to prove proficiency and gain confidence. It also gives them pride of ownership of the task.
  • Check in, but don’t hover: No one likes a micro-manager. It’s offensive and meddlesome. Set a timeline to check results, ask your team member to set that timeline, so they feel part of the process.
  • Measure and adjust: If after the second check in things are running smoothly, assign another thing from the list. If not, decide if this person would be better suited to another item on the list. Let them have a look at the possible assignments and see if something appeals.
  • Trust: Probably the biggest piece of the puzzle in delegating is having faith that your team members will perform magnificently, or at least admirably. Provided you hired the right people in the first place, you now have to step back and let them at least try.
  • Prepare for success, accept some failure: We’re perfect right, so why can’t everyone else be? Yeah, that’s “stinking thinking” and it’s important you rid yourself of this kind of mindset. This is a proving and learning ground here, so allow your team members that opportunity. Encourage, don’t disparage. Suggest, don’t demand. Teach, don’t assume.
  • Praise: It’s remarkable how far a little praise will go with employees…well, and people in general. (Gallup has an interesting post on the subject, too.) Have a mechanism in place, not just to say “nice work”; notes, a mention in a company newsletter, and small tokens of thanks – these all carry a lot of weight with your team members and they’ll appreciate the gesture and try even harder.

Initially it might be really uncomfortable, but when you begin to tap into the power of your team, you’ll find things run much more smoothly for your business. You’ll also free a little time to plan on the next big move for your company. (Photo Credit-Ammonite)

7 thoughts on “Letting Go: Trusting in Delegation

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  • alfredmarteen

    Small Business owners are largely forgotten. Thats why I only focus on them. I have experience several members of my family file bankruptcy due to small business failures. I also I suffered through 2 destroyed businesses due to failure however, in my failings I have learned some of the secrets to success. (Who can say they know it all?)
    What I like about small business owners is that they are not afraid to take huge risks and lay it all on the line. But, I agree they do need a lot of help with their marketing. I think having them go the social media and email route is not only the least expensive but its also the most effective. Thanks for the stats!

  • Pete Ingar

    This brings up an idea I hadn’t considered: letting employees have a hand in things related to delegation. It’s almost a “bottom up” kind of thinking, putting a team in charge or at least allowing them to have a say. Now wish me luck as I share this with my management 🙂

  • Teri

    Excellent perspective…if you have a salaried, full time staff. However, if you run a small business with part timers on a per hour basis, you need to balance the need to delegate with the need to cover your costs. The owner needs a backup for all critical areas to assure longevity of the business, but the costs of training and double coverage are expensive and need to be managed. In Corporate America it was easy to delegate, since I never worried about payroll. Today, I have to meet that payroll, and it is a fine balancing act to have the staff increasingly "billable" and training.

    • debkolaras

      No matter what size or makeup of your company, there will always be a need for balance. I think a key to effective delegation is aligning those with the necessary skills with the task that is most suitable, but also letting the entire team know who does what and sticking with that. Also, people in the team need to assume a large portion of the training responsibility on their own – otherwise, little ownership is taken. It is necessary to have backups on tasks, but swift changes need to be made if the "backup" is now in the starring role.

  • Viv Riolet

    Sometimes it’s really that simple, isn’t it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this myself earlier, though and good piece and some things I can try in my business. -Viv

  • Teri

    Interesting….and worthy of some thought and consideration!

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