Two of my clients have recently experienced disappointing results from their first forays into delegation.
Part of me wished I had prepared them better.
Another part of me, after the event, remembered the enormous value I acquired from my own first (failed) experiments in outsourcing way back in the Eighties when I took on my first assistant.
It isn’t always better for me to over-prepare a client for every situation. And sometimes we under-estimate a threat and are surprised by the outcome. Sometimes there isn’t time. Sometimes we only remember to look at the good bits and forget to manage the risks.
One client took on her first associate and speedily set about increasing the turnover in the business to keep the new associate busy. Neither of us paid enough attention to what the associate’s needs might be and were surprised when they were more than either of us could possibly have imagined, except in hindsight.
Because my client is a businesswoman and not new at it, only new at delegation, we both assumed all would be well and the associate would be cut from the same cloth. This can almost never be.
An associate is likely to be much younger, in this case fresh out of college. This is great because you can model them into your way of doing things, but you cannot drop them in at the deep end and expect them to float like you did.
You will need an E-Myth stylee procedures manual called How We Do It Here and every hour you put into training will bring you a return.
Everyone’s first assumption is often that an associate or sub-contractor or employee will take your money and your training and run. And they might. Let’s face it, you probably did too, on an accelerated path to being self-employed yourself. But not all will. Some have no such ambitions and those will stay and be great team players for you, but they are not born knowing what it has taken you your entire career to date to learn. So assume nothing and teach everything.
In the E-Myth their distinction is to delegate (show what you want) and not abdicate (throw the problem at them and leave them to it, running off in the opposite direction so keen are you to be rid of it). I mean who does that? We all do, the first time!
So what’s the learning here?
- Work out what you want and expect from them.
- Explain it. Show it. Train it.
- Monitor them to make sure they understand and are following your instructions.
- As their confidence grows, invite them to improve your procedures manual and make it their own to the extent that they improve it (by agreement with you first).
- Reward accordingly.
- Rinse and repeat.
A fab little book on this topic is called The One Minute Manager and it advises to have your requirements on one page of A4, tell them very quickly when they get it wrong, correct and re-train. Tell them very quickly when they get it right, reward.
Communication is vital too. Keep in regular written, verbal and face-to-face contact, possibly in a formal 30 minutes a week so feedback can go both ways and nip any potential mis-communications in the bud. That can slip to an hour a month once both parties are confident you are working smoothly together.
My other client outsourced her expenses to a VA. Didn’t go well. Again we both assumed. I didn’t think it was all that difficult so I forgot to say to my client “make sure she understands precisely what you want and how to do it”. Ask her, if necessary, to check with you after doing 10 percent of the task, not wait until the end only for you both to discover that it’s all “wrong”.
Are you nervous of making your own first forays into delegation for precisely this reason?
Do you have heroic war stories where you learned by doing it the hard way? Do share!
Mostly your employees, staff, VAs and associates want to please you and do a good job. It’s your job to give them the best shot at achieving that. Put yourself back into their shoes, nervous in a new job, feeling under-confident as yet, perhaps they’ve moved across country to get this new work – eek! How scary to be alone in a new city and a new or even first job!
Be a kind, supportive boss who trains them to help you to the max, but no pushover either. Keep up the work between you on the procedures manual. Then, if and when they ever leave, they will be able to train their replacement for you. Not choose their replacement, that’s your job and how it goes with this one will inform how you pick the next one.
You can do this delegation thing. And if, perchance, it goes wrong the first time, take what you learned and do it better the second time around.