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The Fine Art of Delegation

February 25, 2008
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Butch Welsch

Last time we talked about time management and some of the things we should be doing to help us accomplish more. One topic is so important that we left it out so we could discuss it in greater detail. That topic is the art of delegation.

In my experience with heating and air conditioning contractors, delegating is not something that they do very comfortably. Most of us started as small businesses, where there was no one to whom to delegate. Then as the business grew, we still attempted to wear all of the hats, make all of the decisions, and have our hands on everything that happens.

I have personal experience with this issue.

USING MY OWN EXPERIENCE

As I got more deeply involved in the business, I saw that my dad was able to pretty much be a part of all the major and many of the minor decisions in the company. I assumed this was the way to do things. However, as our company began to grow, it became more and more difficult for me to properly stay on top of everything that was happening. Yet, I still attempted to do so.

There is a joke within our family that we took a vacation to Florida and I spent the week taking plans to the beach to make takeoffs and prepare bids. I’m sure many of you have been in the same position. I was reluctant to let others do things that they were probably more qualified to do than I was anyway.

Then, we had a life-changing experience when I was put in a position to serve as President of National SMACNA. This position required considerable travel and time away from the office. (We made 67 trips during the year). Suddenly I had to learn how to delegate. I determined that I would not be around enough to know the details of the things that would be happening. Therefore, I realized that I would have to rely on my managers to make the key decisions because they would know the details of the situation. Fortunately for our company and myself, we had very capable managers in place who were able to make the right decisions once they understood that I was “forcing” them to make the decision.

START PLANNING NOW

My recommendation to you is that you put a plan like this into place before it’s a necessity. You will be surprised at how your business can not only survive, but also maybe even prosper, without you having to make every decision. Obviously, it is very important that you have people, who, when given the opportunity, can make good decisions. So step one is to make sure you have those people in place.

The next step is to begin giving them the opportunity to make the decisions. These are decisions that you may have made previously, and feel you can make now, but need to start giving to others. The important thing to remember about all decisions in any company is that the person closest to the situation is almost always in the best position to make a decision about that issue. In other words, the farther down the organization chart you delegate the authority to make decisions, the more likelihood that the decisions will be good ones. This is a concept that is difficult for us to comprehend. Try it.

Give your field personnel the authority to make decisions involving their jobs. Monitor their progress and I believe you will be amazed at the results. Another important benefit is that by allowing these employees to make decisions, they feel much more that they are a part of the company.

There are many obvious benefits to delegation. It makes employees feel part of the company, it allows the decision to be made at the level most likely to provide a proper decision, and most importantly it frees up your time as the business owner to spend more time looking at long-term, more strategic, and similar issues.

Publication date: 02/25/2008
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