If you’ve read my blogs about entrepreneurial freedom, you know that I’m a fan of delegation. And I’m not the only one. Many business coaches and consultants will tell you the same thing. To preserve your sanity and grow your business, you need to free up your time and energy — and that means clearing tasks off your plate.
However, many entrepreneurs interpret that to mean that they can simply hand off items. But there’s a missing piece: who is accountable for that task? If you’re delegating a task but you still feel the need to babysit it, are you really free?
Not at all. So, let’s look at the other side of delegation: accountability and how to build strong teams you can trust.
Have you ever had a boss who assigned tasks but micromanaged all the assignees? Or perhaps you’ve been on teams where there was always a ton to do but no clarity on why you were doing it.
Those situations happen when executives delegate tasks without considering accountability. The best leaders inspire others to feel ownership of their work. That’s often lacking when people get assigned projects with no outcome attached.
Why are they working on that task? Is it because they’re truly the best person for it? Or because the boss was trying to clear off their plate and just needed someone else to do it?
In all the blogs and podcasts out there about delegation, this point is often overlooked. Delegation shouldn’t be done for its own sake. When you delegate a task, you should be entrusting a team member with it. If you are ultimately responsible for a task and its decisions, you can’t really let it go. It’s still taking up mental space, if not your time. From there, it’s just a short step to becoming an accidental micromanager.
As a leader, your role is to empower your team to make decisions that benefit the group. You should only be responsible for the high-level decisions. This comes back to a point I like to make: you should be working on your business, not in your business. If you’re delegating tasks but clinging to their decisions, you’re still mentally accountable for all those lower-level decisions.
If you’re cringing at the thought of letting go of tasks, ask yourself why.
Do you feel a lot of ownership over your business? That’s normal. After all, it’s your creation!
Do you feel nervous about delegating because you’re worried the task won’t be done right? Well then, it’s time to look at your team.
Team-building is an art — one that can take years to refine. A good team doesn’t emerge out of nowhere. And a random group of employees or contractors is not automatically a team.
A key part of leadership is assembling and motivating a strong team. In my 5P framework, “people” is one of the vital steps toward entrepreneurial freedom. You want people who share your vision, understand your “why,” and who can best leverage their talents. Your role as a leader is to clarify and cultivate all those elements.
That makes delegation so much easier. If you know why someone is the best person for a task, you can trust them with its accountability. Better yet, you know they can make decisions that ultimately support your business.
So, how can you find these people? There is a lot of misinformation about team-building. Some business owners assume all team members must be employees… and so they create roles that don’t always make sense as full-time positions.
One of the biggest myths, though, comes from all those companies that want to sell you fancy HR tools. They promise to help you build perfect teams with personality assessments, automatic scheduling and delegation, and so on. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe people can’t be reduced to 1’s and 0’s.
Understanding your people takes time. Open the door to communication. Get to know their strengths and weaknesses. Look for ways to encourage their growth. As people gain clarity on your vision and become confident in their role, you’ll find that their Myers-Briggs is just one small part of the puzzle. Choosing the best person for a task should take all the factors into consideration.
As I mentioned, ideally you can delegate all lower-level tasks. If you don’t have the people to handle them, you must either find the right people or get rid of the tasks. (Often, the latter is easier.)
That brings me to another point about delegation. Does a task really need to be done? Sometimes, we delegate because we just want something off our plate. But throwing a body at a problem is rarely effective.
Let’s say your PPC budget is getting quite large. You’re not achieving good results from your ad campaigns. So, you request your trusted marketing expert to trim it down. But is the problem truly that the budget is bloated, or that your ROI is poor? Does your team member know what they’re actually supposed to do and why?
Often, there’s an underlying process that doesn’t align with your business’s overall vision. Everything should stem from your core promise, which is the first of my 5 Ps. If you’re doing XYZ because some business class told you to, it’s worth considering if it’s right for you. If not, delegating won’t fix the problem.
Delegation is ultimately a matter of simplifying your business. It’s simpler to entrust a crucial task to the team member who can best do it. When you both understand the purpose of that task, it’s also simpler to do it. And best of all, you’ve freed up both time and energy — making your workload (a bit) simpler.
Simplification is the road to entrepreneurial freedom. That’s why team-building shouldn’t be a maze of automated assessments and overloaded dockets… it should be a complementary set of great people who share your vision. Once you achieve that, it’s much easier to delegate with confidence. Or better yet, get rid of tasks that don’t serve your business goals.
So, let’s re-think delegation. It’s not just about assigning tasks; it’s a way to redistribute accountability and empower everyone to do their best. And that all comes down to choosing the right people for your business — and cultivating their talent and confidence.
This blog is inspired by an episode of the Simplifying Entrepreneurship podcast in which I interview Veronica Romney, a fractional chief of staff and the Dream Team Architect.
You can watch the entire interview below: