Delegation survival tips for small business

Does the word ‘delegation’ make you shudder?

If you are a small business owner, chances are the word ‘delegation’ is associated with discomfort!


Good Business Consulting recently interviewed Sally Foley-Lewis who helps first-time managers become productive and successfully delegate. Delegation (and sometimes ‘letting go’) is essential for a small business to grow beyond the limits of the owner.

We asked Sally to share some survival tips to help small business owners delegate in a way that helps them grow their business.


Q. Are there any golden rules on knowing what to delegate and what to do yourself?

In the context of small business owners, more often than not the owner wants to do everything, at least once, so they have a handle on what the tasks/work is all about; they want to know what happens, how things work, which way to run something.  I firmly believe this is natural.

Quite simply, it’s time to delegate when the task you are doing is costing you.  The person needs to determine that if the time, effort and expertise spent doing something outweighs spending that time, effort and expertise generating other business.

This is often closely aligned with a person’s subject matter expertise.  If someone is far smarter and quicker at, for example, accounting, then consider if you should continue to do your own accounting or hire an accountant.

I wrote a blog post about delegation in small business, and I’d love to know what small business owners think.

Q. Sometimes when a task that we delegate is not completed to our standards it is because of a communication breakdown in the beginning stages of handing the task over. Can you share some tips to reduce this occurring?

The answer is right in the question here: communication!  Communicating expectations are critical.

To take this a little further, check that the expectations are reasonable and focusing on the important task completion factors.  I often train and coach manages about letting go of how a task should be done and focus on the important information such as when the task needs to be completed, who is involved in the task completion, what resources are available, etc.

Q. What are some ways that we can encourage the best performance from staff?

There are lots of ways, so for brevity here’s three:

1. Encourage problem-solving to happen at the staff level.  When managers/bosses constantly problem-solve for the staff they are inadvertently creating over-dependence, discouraging creativity, creating bottlenecks in decision-making time, etc.

2. When delegating a task: ask yourself how important is it for the staff to complete it your way; i.e. are you a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of person.  You can set expectations, encourage discussion and ask the staffer how they might complete the task.  Engaging the staff in the how creates task ownership, which in turn positively impacts performance.

3. Creative thinking and informal discussions.  Talking with the staff about what the vision and mission mean to them and their every day job.  Discuss what do they think they do in their work that directly links with the broader strategic vision.  When staff know why they do what they do, this creates ownership and connection which spurs on better performance.

Q. What can a business owner do to encourage key staff members to take ownership and pride in tasks so that they can be trusted to take care of the task from start to finish?

Some quick tips:

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  • A clear briefing from the start, encourage ideas and input from the staff, ensure adequate resources are available or they know what resources they can use.
  • Be available to help if things get tricky.
  • Back off and let them get on with it – overbearing is just as stifling, frustrating and demoralizing as being invisible, so yes, it’s a balancing act!
  • Use questions to encourage problem solving, decision-making, creativity, engagement, and enthusiasm rather than answers, directions and instructions.

About Sally Foley-Lewis:

Sally Foley-Lewis fast tracks manager productivity. This means, in the context for a small business, she can help small business owners address their people management issues such as, learning how to delegate (let go), how to give corrective feedback in a constructive and positive way, and helping the owner articulate their vision and mission to the team.

Do you find delegation challenging as a small business owner? What have your experiences been? Do you have any advice that you can share with others?


If you have any questions or comments for Sally Foley-Lewis, leave them below and she will respond to each of you.


1 thought on “Delegation survival tips for small business”

  1. why do we need to deligate power , what is the advantage and what is the problem of deligating power and what is the
    difination of deligation

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