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The Four Stages of Effective Delegation

Delegation is a secret to business success that many entrepreneurs and business owners tend to ignore.

To grow a successful business, you have to be able to work on the business not in the business. The only way to do that is to build a trusted team and implement systems that allow your team to flourish and grow. As your business grows, learning to delegate is crucial. If you don’t delegate, you’ll burn yourself out, and run yourself and your business into the ground.

As the business owner, your primary role should be overseeing the business operation. For example, the barbershop owner spends all of his time cutting hair, when he should be focused on hiring and training people to cut hair while he goes out and gets more customers.

When my partner, Omar Soliman, and I started College Hunks Hauling Junk, we were hauling the junk and driving the trucks. But for us to get to the next level, we had to create a system that enabled us to scale our business. So we began hiring people to do the day-to-day tasks. We handed the keys to our truck to new employees and expecting them to know what they were supposed to do. As a result, our team members ended up crashing the trucks, upsetting clients, and damaging furniture.

It wasn’t their fault. It was our fault for not providing proper training for our team. We learned the hard way that delegation also meant learning to manage people, as well as creating systems of accountability and consistency. It was our responsibility to ensure that our team had the tools, training and resources it needed to succeed.

We developed a four-stage process to delegation. This system encourages high performance while also giving team members the autonomy to make decisions for themselves.

Stage 1: Ask me what you should do, and I’ll tell you what to do. Most people will start out not knowing what to do and needing lots of guidance in the beginning. As the boss, your job is to keep them focused on whatever task they are responsible for. Eventually, it will become automatic, and over time, the team member will need less guidance. Some jobs — such as administrative positions — require more micromanaging than others because instructions must be followed to the letter. But with managers, while there should be procedures, there should also be more flexibility as long as the desired results are achieved.

Stage 2: Make a recommendation for what you think you should do, and I’ll agree or disagree. This signals that an employee is truly learning to take initiative. They are owning the decisions, using their own judgment to make their best choice and reporting back for feedback or permission for next steps. By this point the employee needs minimal guidance but still needs permission to pursue certain initiatives.

Stage 3: Do what you think is right, and then report back to me hourly or daily. This stage is when an employee is fully empowered to handle the vital operations allowing the owner to oversee growth and other essential business activities. Typically the employee just reports what happened during the day and the business owner responds as needed.

Stage 4: Do what you think is right and then report back to me weekly or monthly. The more comfortable and competent the employee is, the less oversight required by the owner. There will still be a verbal report about what the employee is doing, but by now, there are no questions about what is expected.

The biggest benefit of these steps is creating a culture of accountability, freedom and, ultimately, self-sufficiency. This doesn’t mean everyone works separately, it means everyone works independently and as a team.

To really seal the deal you must empower your team with additional responsibility and compensation. Our company creates upward mobility — meaning there is a logical path for growth in both these areas for those willing to put in the effort.

The key is to have people feeling happy and passionate about taking on additional responsibility rather than burdened and distressed. Many companies simply let people get burned out and don’t provide room to grow. We see delegating as passing the responsibility on to the next generation.

At the end of the day, people want to feel good about what they’re doing every day and get paid fairly for the value they provide. This allows Soliman and I, as founders of College Hunks Hauling Junk, to continue to grow a business that our team can be proud of. And ultimately, that’s what delegation is all about.

Source: The Young Entrepreneurs Council

Founded by Scott Gerber, the Young Entrepreneur Council is a nonprofit organization that provides young entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentoring, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment.

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