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Delegation - A key tool to grow your startup fast

Aktualisiert: 29. Sept. 2020

Often we come across leaders in start-ups, especially the founders, who are not good at delegation. This is partly understandable, as they have a special bond to the start-up. They are the ones who did all the tasks in the beginning themselves - back then, when there was no team. However, to grow your start-up it is essential to delegate. Not just tasks, but responsibilities.

Why delegation matters

  • When you want to grow (fast), it is impossible for you to do everything on your own. Delegation gives you leverage and frees up time you can invest elsewhere in your company.

  • When delegating responsibilities, e.g. for a project, you provide the according team members with growth opportunities. They can learn new skills and develop as a person. This adds to the desire of 'mastery', one of the key intrinsic motivators. By this you can increase the chance to keep key players in your team.

  • When delegating, this shows and builds trust between you and the team member. The higher level of participation also helps to build more commitment.

Task/ gofer delegation vs responsibility/ stewardship delegation

As said before, it is important to differentiate between delegating tasks (gofer delegation) and delegating responsibilities (stewardship delegation). Delegating tasks is admittedly easier, but also less efficient.

Imaging, I ask you to take a picture of me. If I now tell you: "Go in this position", "hold the camera like this", "take a picture now, and now again", "go over there", "make sure the ocean is also in the picture"... this is a clear task delegation. There is no real freedom in what you do as you are mainly 'used' as a 'machine to complete the task'.

When delegating the responsibility the conversation would be a different one. I would tell you which type of picture I want, what is important for me... and then you would have the freedom to come up with the best possible result based on what we discussed.

How do delegate

As a start into the topic, we like to work with a simplified version of Sally Foley-Lewis' '9 step model for delegation'. It has three phases: before delegating, during delegation (when talking with the person you are delegating to) and after delegation (after the task or project is finished). In each of the stages, three areas have to be considered: the task level, the people involved and the process.

To go here into all the details would take to long. Therefore, for now just some key points.

  • Before delegating get clear for yourself what you actually want to delegate and really define what the goal of the task or project is, which resources can be used, what the deadline is, in which context it all takes place....

  • Check for both will and skill in the person you want to delegate to. Skill meaning professional and personal competencies, while will refers to the motivation and willingness to take over the task or project

  • Monitors progress only on the agreed milestone! Agree upfront on when and how you will meet for updates etc. and resist the temptation to ask for status updates in-between those agreed times. If you fail to do so, the person will feel that you don't trust them and that they are actually not really responsible as you are always 'controlling' them. If you know about yourself that it is hard for you to let go, agree upfront on shorter update intervals.

  • During the delegation make sure that you both have the same understanding of the desired outcome, available support and so on. Ask the other person, for example, to describe those things to you in their own words. Keep going back and forth on this until both of you are sure that you have the same understanding

  • Take the time to reflect for yourself and together afterwards what went well and where you can improve for the next delegation

The role of the team member in this process can be summarised as follows:

  • Confirmes goal, i.e. described expected outcome with own words

  • Decides how, when and with whom he/she will do the task

  • Takes responsibility to deliver on time and quality

  • Reports progress on agreed milestones

  • Reports back immediately if the goal cannot be achieved as agreed

If you want to get more into the details on how to delegate in order to grow your start-up faster or want to train your team in it, get in touch:

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