September 06, 2022
By Judie McCarthy
Having run a firm myself and worked with many firm owners, I understand the concept of letting go can be hard. However, if you don't learn how to delegate work, your growth will be capped. In this article, I'll share how you can effectively begin to delegate.
Why is delegating hard for firm owners?
Emotions play a major role in an owner's difficulty letting go and delegating tasks, but the challenges in delegating go beyond emotions. Since you've been an integral cog in your firm's operation, you may not have documented all of your processes yet.
The tasks you handle live in your head, and often every client's tasks are a bit different.
One of the biggest hurdles you'll likely face when you begin to delegate is documentation. However, it's possible to overcome this challenge by following the steps below:
Capture your processes
If you want to delegate, you need to have detailed documentation for the person to follow. With proper documentation, someone else can provide the same level of service that your clients are accustomed to already.
You can begin capturing your processes using key tools:
- Microsoft Word or Google Docs;
- Loom or similar screen recording; and
You may even want to use a combination of the tools above to capture your processes. For example, Loom is an excellent option because it allows you to record your screen and show a team member exactly how you perform a task.
Additionally, for each task, you can attach these instructions to your project management system to reduce the risk of errors and ensure that the task gets done the same way each time.
Break your work down into smaller pieces
As part of capturing your work, be sure to break down your work into smaller pieces. The goal of breaking work down into smaller chunks allows you to eventually assign the work to others and make it easier to follow your instructions.
For example, you may break down your work into entering transitions, running payroll, performing reconciliations, and so on.
Begin delegating tasks the right way
Once all of your processes are documented and you've broken your work down into smaller chunks, you can begin assigning work. When you first begin delegating, try assigning simple tasks first.
If your team completes these simple tasks properly, you can assign them more complex tasks.
When delegating, you can set your team up for success by:
- Ensuring they have the tools they need to complete the work;
- Granting access to files and documents they may need;
- Providing clear expectations of the work, such as timelines, duties and so forth; and
- Assigning work to the right person who has the experience needed to complete the job.
You need to be confident in your staff's ability to do the jobs they're assigned. If you delegate tasks to someone who isn't qualified to complete them, you're setting your team up for failure. Don't delegate work to someone unqualified just because they need something to do.
Additionally, just because you begin delegating doesn't mean you must delegate everything. If a task is something that you genuinely enjoy doing, do it. You can also step in from time to time to ensure you know the current processes.
For example, if you've been delegating payroll to Suzie for months, you can ask her to let you handle payroll this week so that you remain in touch with the process.
Monitor your team's progress
Firm owners are so used to being hands-on that they often fear the work won't be done properly or on time without them. You should have a way to monitor results to ensure every task is moving along accordingly.
You may want to consider using a project management application so you can track work that is getting done, view when work is getting done and monitor anything that's fallen to the back burner.
If you find that tasks aren't being completed on time or not at all, step in quickly to discover what's causing your staff problems. Perhaps there's something you can do to remove the friction that is holding the task up from being completed on time or correctly. Just because you're delegating tasks doesn't mean that you have to step back 100%. You can still monitor things and help staff as necessary.
Next, you need to build relationships between your staff and clients.
Help staff build client relationships
Being a firm owner or partner means that you've had a lot of hands-on experience with clients. You may want to maintain this relationship management, but to fully delegate work, your staff members need to also be a part of the client relationship.
Relationships with clients will make it easier for staff to gather information, get answers to their questions, and do their job. You can facilitate these relationships by introducing team members as part of the onboarding process. Ensure your clients know which team members they should contact for various aspects of their engagement and how to contact your team members.
It's important to tell clients that you're still available if they have any questions or concerns. You can also tell them that you're not going anywhere and will be overlooking their work still.
Delegating needs to work for everyone, and you should gather feedback from staff you're offloading your work to because their feedback is essential. Remain open-minded and allow staff to provide honest feedback. They may have ideas on how to make processes even better.
As you look to grow your firm, delegating work is something you must get comfortable with and master. If you follow the steps above, not only will you find success in your delegation process, but your team and your clients will too.