Recently, a good friend of mine landed a new book of business. Although she was happy for the revenue and validation it provided, she felt overwhelmed by the increased load it would have on her already busy work schedule. I asked her if she thought it might be time to delegate some of the work, now that she had additional income. She reflected for a moment and replied, “No, I’ve tried that before and ended up doing twice as much work. I will end up doing all the work myself, then have to pay someone else for the time I invest in training that person in.”
Throughout my career, I have witnessed the scenario my friend described, both in small business and corporate environments. Despite the fact that both the trainer and the trainee have good intentions and are willing to do their part, their efforts end in frustration. In small business, the job is short-lived. In the larger corporation, the newcomer’s role evolves into something very different than originally planned.
Why is it so difficult to delegate? One of the primary reasons why delegation fails is because there is no process in place to support it. Delegation is part of a designed process that is built into the structure of the organization, part of its overall vision and strategic plan. New roles are planned well in advance of the work that needs delegation; they are designed out of the company’s intention to grow and expand.
In my friend’s case, the need to delegate arose out of a surplus of work, which resulted from a growing demand for her talents and experiences. It was an esoteric combination to say the least. There would be no way to replicate her and bring another person aboard exactly like her, nor would it be desirable to do so in the long run. When your company’s strategic plan does not consider the successful expansion of your department, as well as your organization overall, you find yourself in the same predicament as my friend.
In contrast, if your organization’s strategy is built around a demand-driven vision, it takes into account the skills required for the value you create. As a result, your organization is better prepared to take on additional workflow with far less stress and higher profitability. Furthermore, you create a more cooperative and collaborative culture. Your employees know, care and feel empowered to do what your customers want and need.
Ed Bogle, one of my coauthors in “Amazing Workplace: Creating the Conditions that Inspire Success,” says that something special happens when people feel part of their organization’s vision, mission and brand promise. A subtle, but important shift takes place, which he describes as “discretionary effort.” Value creation is the result of discretionary effort, the kind of effort my friend made that grew her business beyond her capacity to serve it. The value that discretionary effort creates is something you need from your employees if you want your business to grow.
Designing roles within your business that enable discretionary effort from employees is not an easy task. It requires forward thinking, a good understanding of your customer, and an ongoing effort to adapt to an ever-changing market. It also requires the clear and consistent communication of a well-thought-out strategic plan.
There is a limit to how far any one of us can reach and how much of load we can carry. If your vision is to grow your business, then it is essential to embrace the power of delegation. When the process of delegation becomes part of your business design, it is no longer “too expensive” or “too time consuming,” to add new talent. The value that you and your employees create through discretionary effort becomes its own reward.