Delegate and reward

It is not unusual for business owners to struggle with delegating decision-making authority. From the beginning, their vision and passion got the firm off the ground and profitable.
They believed in their company when others did not. They did not shy away from investing the dollars and sweat into their company to realize their dream. They brought to their firm a constant willingness to sacrifice and do whatever was necessary to succeed.
From the beginning, they made the decisions. Often there was nobody else to make them. And because they made more right decisions than wrong decisions, they made progress in growing their company.
For many owners, reporting their personal history with their company is like sharing the details of only the best of love affairs. It is seldom that any employee, at any level, in any company, at any time, can attest to sharing this intensely personal relationship with the corporate entity for which they work to earn a living.
It is early in the development of their business that owners begin to wrestle with issues involving trust and confidence in those who work for them, often because there is no one working for them who has walked the first miles of corporate development with them. There is no one working for them who was driven to take the risk to build their own company and then did it successfully.
Those owners who succeed in taking their company from infancy to maturity learn how to delegate and manage. However, it has been my experience that many owners fail to develop these skill sets early on, and this failure thwarts the growth and development of their organization.
While it is seldom that any employee has the same intense personal relationship with their company as the owner, it is often that there are people working for a business owner who are more capable than the owner of making sound decisions about a variety of matters. In fact, their abilities in this regard contributed heavily to them being hired by the owner.
Then how does one learn to delegate effectively? The key is to be proactive in learning what is needed to provide for effective leadership and management. It is exercising the discipline to implement what has been learned that will make the investment in learning worthwhile.
For business owners who are running ragged by the end of each day, convinced there is not enough time to get things done, whose desks are piled high with paperwork and reminder slips and who are increasingly frustrated with the limitations of their employees, I offer the following guidelines for successful delegation.
1. Know thyself and let thyself shine. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses as an owner and a manager of people. If you have no clue as to your own core competencies, then seek the help of outside advisors to better understand what you bring to the corporate equation for success. Make sure that as the owner of your company, you are doing what you like to do best and what you do best. Give yourself the freedom to allow your strengths to maximize your contribution.

2. Hire the best people you can attract and afford to hire. Too often, business owners with limited experience fail to surround themselves with the talent they need to be able to delegate with confidence. Too often, the cost of attracting and hiring needed talent is used as a cover for an owner being, “penny wise and pound foolish.” Too often, an investment in the latest innovation in office equipment is seen as essential, while paying a few thousand dollars more for a top-flight office administrator is seen as excessive and financially irresponsible. Too often, a $5,000 difference is what separates an owner from attracting the talent and experience needed for a key management position, yet the return on the investment of that $5,000, a return of a high multiple, would be harvested very quickly.
3. Recognize that hoarding authority is the best way to lose it. If you hoard authority, you thwart the abilities of those who work for you to become truly invested in the outcome of their decisions. If you insist upon micromanaging, you strip others of their pride, integrity and resourcefulness. If you fail to delegate to those who work for you, you destroy your ability to hold them accountable and to earn their respect for you as a wise and capable top dog. As a business owner, you begin your relationship with any employee with ascribed authority and more often than not ascribed respect. Achieved levels of authority and respect are earned incrementally, each and every day.
4. Clearly define the responsibilities and levels of authority you are delegating.
Delegating does not lessen a business owner’s responsibility. It gives the owner the capacity to focus their strengths and sometimes handle even greater responsibility. However, far too often, business owners delegate with a lack of clarity, and this is part of a sure formula for chaos and a waste of investment in time and talent. The authority and responsibilities being delegated by an owner should be clear, not only to those receiving the delegation, but to all of those working in the organization. Delegation of authority and responsibility is only one step in a corporate machine, which needs to be oiled and lubricated to work efficiently.

5. Support those to whom you delegate. Too often, business owners hire the right people but then fail to recognize their abilities and fail to provide them the needed backup support for their decisions. Meddling does not win respect, nor does it motivate others to maximize their contribution to the company’s growth and development. Astute business owners keep their eyes and ears open, but rely upon reports to reveal the truth about the effectiveness of personnel.
6. Reward with delegation to those who demonstrate they are reliable. Often, business owners fail to recognize those whom have accepted delegation and exercised sound judgment. The only reward given is an increase in responsibility without an increase in compensation. This is a sure way to begin stripping a good employee of their enthusiasm for making even more important decisions for you and your company. Savvy business owners recognize that as they become more able to delegate effectively, those to whom they delegate and then achieve become more essential to assure the profitability and success of the company as it grows and develops. The best owners reward their top performers with the recognition and financial rewards they deserve for carrying the load that was once only carried solely by the owner.
A business owner learning to delegate properly can mean the difference between a company going through a long and sometimes never-ending period of mediocre performance and charging ahead to new heights of corporate achievement. The business owner who wants his or her company to be on the cutting edge recognizes this and takes steps to master the art and science of this skill set.

Richard Hellan is the president of Hellan Associates, an executive coaching firm headquartered in Milwaukee. He can be reached at (414) 540-0160.
August 6, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

No posts to display