If you find your employees just aren't fast enough or that you keep jumping in to get things done, perhaps it’s time you took a step back.
I’ve been working from home today, and as well as doing a bit of bookkeeping and the standard mum stuff, I’ve held a video call with a new client and spent some time on our marketing strategy. In the office, one of the team is meeting with one of our longest-standing clients, and another’s sifting her way through some expense claims.
The reason I’m not in the office trying to juggle my family responsibilities, client meetings and expense claims is delegation. So I was really interested to read Tickers’ post in Any Answers on the subject of Delegate vs DIY.
The AccountingWEB reader wrote: “I've been trying to take a step back from a lot of the grunt work in the office but find that the staff aren't fast enough or ask far too many questions for my liking. The issue is that I find that I keep jumping in just to get something done.”
Until the middle of 2018, I was doing some freelance bookkeeping work supported by one contractor but with a new baby on the way, I knew I’d have to hire staff if I wanted to carry on. I needed to hire people with the skills to keep the business running while I inevitably took some time off but I knew that as well as this being a short term fix, it needed to be a long term shift as well because hiring a team is the way you grow a business.
Often we start our businesses because we identify a skill we can monetise, and when you’ve been working with your clients for a long time and have built great relationships, you can feel like you are the only person in the world who can do the work you do to your standard.
I’ve been a manager for years and I’m no stranger to delegation but somehow it feels different when it’s your own business. So I really feel for Tickers, who wants to delegate so badly but finds they need to keep stepping in to get things done.
So how do you delegate well? I think there are three important steps if you want to get it right.
Clearly define what you want to get done
If you’re going to hand over any piece of work, you need to be very clear about what your expectations are. So think carefully about what’s involved, what you expect to see when the work is complete and how long the work should take. Make sure your team have the right training to do what you need them to do, and great process notes.
We like to use video, but if like Tickers you’re finding that your team are asking too many questions, it might be that you need to be clear about when you’ll be available to answer questions and who else in the team might be able to help if you’re not available.
If there’s a task which comes up frequently, it can be helpful to train several people at the same time if you can. Taking an hour out to get everyone in a room learning about a particular process will mean more people understand what’s involved, making it more likely your team member will ask one of their colleagues before coming to you next time they have a question.
Match the right person to the right task
It’s really important to choose the right person for each task. It’s obvious that if you were to ask your intern to work on a complex VAT return that you’re going to have a problem, but personalities are important too.
If there’s someone in your team you know is an absolute stickler for detail, they’re going to be the best person for the job which requires following a strict process. Somebody more creative and intuitive is better suited to a task which will allow them more freedom.
Allow plenty of time for feedback and questions
We use Trello as a way of communicating about what’s happening on different client projects within the team. Questions can be asked and recorded in one place, removing the need for me to be in the office to respond as questions come up. As there’s a log of questions, it also saves the same questions coming up repeatedly.
But I do think it’s essential to have a process where you feed back to your team about the task giving them the opportunity to ask questions and to learn from your review points. A ten-minute chat over a coffee might be all you need to make the process much smoother next time.
Delegation has allowed me to take a step back from the day to day work. Sure I get pulled in at times, but ultimately, it’s allowed me to concentrate on working on the business rather than working in it.
About Zoe Whitman
Zoe runs But the Books, a bookkeeping practice in Bristol helping small businesses owners who know how to do everything for their business... but the books to stay on top of their bookkeeping and to understand the story their numbers are trying to tell them.