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Ineffective delegation: the third critical business mistake

In Business, Coaching and Success by Greg RoworthLeave a Comment

Can’t find good people to work in your small business; or do your delegation systems need to be examined?


You can’t grow your business without delegating work to someone else. However, most business owners would typically prefer to clone themselves than learn how to choose the right people, set them up with the right systems, then motivate and nurture them. As a result, many small and medium-sized businesses suffer from ineffective delegation.

The consequences of ineffective delegation

Ineffective delegation leads to a number of issues:

  1. Differing expectations between boss and employee.
  2. Inefficient work methods, leading to quality and productivity issues.
  3. Disappointment for the business owner because the employee doesn’t think the same way as the owner does.
  4. Frustration for the business owner because the employee doesn’t get the same results the owner would have.

Often the business owner has expectations of employees that are simply not communicated clearly, therefore they don’t get the results they expect. The outcome is frustration, leading to resigned acceptance that ‘you can’t get good people these days’.

Creating effective structures for success

On the other hand, successful entrepreneurs believe clear interactions between people and developing good relationships are essential to excellent execution, so they develop effective systems and communication processes. These include job descriptions, operations manuals, work instructions, and specific appraisal systems. These all help to ensure that expectations about an employee’s role in the business are effectively communicated and understood, and that the employee’s performance results are fed back and effectively worked through to the satisfaction of each party. Delegation can then occur without frustration and antagonism.

Perhaps the most important means of creating leverage in your business is through developing and implementing systems that remove dependency on you; systems that create a structure for executing the work done in your business with excellence, consistency, quality, and conformity in everything that happens.

Harmony in your small business

Think about what it would be like if everyone who either works in your business or with your business worked in total harmony. That is the recipe for achieving business excellence.

When I think about harmony, I find it really valuable to think about how an orchestra functions. Think of it this way: in an orchestra, the conductor gets everyone to follow the music in a way that is wholly prescribed. There is little room for creativity in how the musicians play their instruments and play their parts, the conductor dictates how that will happen. But somehow, with all this direction and lack of scope for creativity, in the best orchestras, each individual plays to the best of their ability and is able to express the full range of their talents. The conductor knows the capabilities of the musicians and sets up the score so that each person can produce the best results. That’s the way it should work in your business as well.

In fact, the major benefit of the orchestration process in business is to ensure that the desired outcome is actually achieved through the process being executed. However, far too often in business, I see work being done with no defined outcome in mind and other processes being performed in such a way that achieving the desired outcome is more a matter of luck than design.

Variation: the enemy of efficiency

One of the biggest enemies of quality and efficiency is variation. All too often in business, because of a lack of orchestration, variation leads to poor and unwanted results. However, orchestration is a matter of making decisions in advance to ensure you achieve the desired outcome. One of the mistakes many business owners make is to not conduct a process of orchestration to predetermine how work should be executed, or to not describe and teach people sufficiently well about how the work should be performed. What then happens is that the worker continually comes to interrupt the boss whenever they get stuck or have to think through the process. When the instructions are not clear, anything can happen in unexpected ways.

When everything has been decided in advance about what needs to be executed to get the desired outcome, and then instructions are put into a format where there is no room for misunderstanding, the room for error is removed and the means for achieving quality and efficiency are put in place.

Getting the process of orchestration to work effectively in your business requires clear vision, strong leadership, and disciplined application of the controls to ensure success. In a growing business, the mistake of leaving this area to chance will really limit your success and growth potential. It’s only by creating effective procedures that are executed with a high degree of excellence by your people that you can develop a business that works without the need for your constant input. When you make the decisions in advance, you can make sure that your people know exactly what to do and what the end result should be.

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