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When entrepreneurs begin their ventures, they often assume control of every task and responsibility, fearing no one else will handle them with the same diligence and care. But leaders who resist delegating tasks are like chefs who insist on preparing every dish in their restaurant. When the restaurant is just starting, this may be feasible. However, when the restaurant becomes popular, and the number of customers increases, the chef may have difficulty keeping up with the demand.
At this point, there are two options: The chef can delegate some of their tasks, or they can continue to handle everything independently. If they choose the latter, they may feel overwhelmed and compromise on the quality of their dishes as they struggle to keep up with the pace.
On the other hand, if the chef learns to delegate tasks to their team members, they can free up their time and focus on the most important aspects of their job. By learning to trust their sous chefs, they can create a more sustainable and efficient business model.
Similarly, an entrepreneur’s unwillingness to delegate can limit their ability to scale the business and achieve long-term success. Both the chef and entrepreneur need to understand that, to grow, you can’t elevate until you delegate. By learning to remove some hats and trusting your team to do what they do best, you can lay a solid foundation for future success.
1. Letting go of the vine and finding people with skin in the game
If there’s one area where a bottleneck can exist in a company, it’s in the seven inches between a leader’s ears. As success builds, leaders often have a hard time relinquishing control and trusting others to manage their projects with the same level of efficiency and care.
But as many a burned-out leader can tell you, if you continue to work overtime to handle everything yourself, at some point, something will crack, if not in the business, inside you. When you reach that breaking point, it’s even harder to turn everything around.
So how can you “let go of the vine” and remove some hats? It starts with implementing the right hiring strategy. To be able to delegate, you need passionate people who not only enjoy the tasks you’re handing them but also possess the confidence to take ownership and make decisions independently.
A big mistake many make is hiring for skills versus core values. There is hardly any skill that cannot be trained on, but if you hire someone with a 10 in skill but a 7 in core value alignment, this will ultimately end in disaster. With the right support and training, these individuals can excel beyond expectations and take projects to new heights.
At Alair, we see this ownership with our Seattle office’s managing partner. He has enough skin in the game to personally say that he can’t let the business go sideways. He also recognizes that the success of his team and brand depends on each individual’s commitment to excellence. By instilling a sense of ownership and accountability in his team members, he’s built a strong, dedicated team that is excited to take this project on.
With the right mindset and team in place, leaders can overcome their fear of relinquishing control and achieve greater success than they ever thought possible.
2. Delegating should be proactive, not reactionary
In entrepreneurship, success is often equated with working long hours and sacrificing one’s personal life. But a friend of mine from Boston is a ridiculously successful entrepreneur who owns an impressive portfolio of companies, yet he manages to work less than 20 hours a week.
How does he do it? Instead of micromanaging his team, he empowers them to take ownership of their work and decisions. If something starts wobbling, he steps in and asks about their plan. Even if he doesn’t completely agree with what that team comes up with, as long as they have a solid strategy in place, he backs up and lets them take charge. After 25 years of working this way, he’s only experienced one major failure.
Delegating should be part of your planning process rather than something you do as a knee-jerk reaction to being overwhelmed. By setting measurable goals and creating a timeline for achieving them, entrepreneurs can identify when it’s time to hire new team members or delegate responsibilities to existing ones. A good plan based on the right people will get good results.
3. A four-quadrant method for deciding what to ditch
Jeff Bezos’ company, Amazon, was built on the concept of being able to offer everything and anything from A to Z. However, he didn’t reach the pinnacle of success by micromanaging every detail of the business. Rather, he delegated responsibilities and freed up his time to focus on the visionary aspects of the company, raise product awareness, and ultimately expand the business.
As a visionary, you must prioritize the big ideas and allow your team to handle other tasks to achieve growth. One way to do this is to systematically categorize your skill sets into four quadrants:
- Tasks you’re good at that you like to do
- Tasks you’re good at that you don’t like to do
- Tasks you’re not good at that you like to do
- Tasks you’re not good at that you don’t like to do
By working backward through these quadrants, you can gradually transfer roles from your plate, starting with tasks you’re not good at and don’t enjoy.
4. The looser your grip is, the bigger your success can be
When you’ve built a business from nothing, it’s natural to feel hesitant about relinquishing control and letting someone get in the driver’s seat. Chefs may resist delegating tasks to their sous chefs in fear of dishes not looking or tasting exactly how they imagined. The same mentality holds true for leaders who grasp too tightly to every minute detail of the business. But the logistical reality is that nobody can be everywhere at once or be the best at everything.
Being humble enough to admit these limitations and bring others on board to help gives you the necessary freedom to be the visionary for the business and do what’s best for the organization. So instead of complicating scaling, keep your mantra simple — to grow, let go.