Do what you do best and delegate the rest

When you start your own business and it’s just you (or a partner perhaps) you do everything. You do the sales, the accounts, the admin, the mail, the work itself…… the list goes on. When you find that you’re in a position to grow and take on specialists you must take those chances as they’ll help take your business to the next level. This often isn’t easy though.

The first thing I employed someone for was the books. Within a year of starting we had a bookeeper that came in once a month. It was just enough to deal with the purchase ledger and VAT/Tax. We also had an accountant but that was a friend of the family helping me out so I guess I can’t count that.

I’m going to be honest with you – Over the years I have been pretty awful at delegating. It’s one of my weaknesses but I’m really working hard on it and want to share some of the things I’m learning with you. I like to have control, to know where everything is and like many other business owners, believe that I can do many things better than other people – This however is not the trait of a successful businessman I’m afraid. Businesses run by people like this can achieve a certain level of growth but if they keep on the same vane it holds them back. They must let go.

Having read the fantastic book ‘One Minute Manager’ (Aff Link) I’ve learnt that delegating is extremely important, but not just that, the process of ‘how to delegate’ is even more vital if you’re to get it right. I’m much better at giving things up now. In my Online Marketing agency, the two directors (of which I’m one) are building a team of fantastic individuals who we feel more than comfortable asking to carry out tasks, knowing they will be done and done with vigor. In your businesses you need to build similar teams around you – recognising where your skills don’t lie and filling these in around you.

I mentioned you need a process for delegating – a framework if you will. Well here’s mine – feel free to nab it.

My Frame work for Delegating

1). Define the task fully – When asking someone to do something, make sure the task is crystal clear. If you’re doing this by email or text, re-read it a couple of times if necessary to make sure you think there can be no room for error.

2). Define when you need the outcome to take place. If you’re asking for a report or something to come back to you then define that date/time clearly. I went wrong here a lot – I assumed by delegating that everyone else’s priorities would match mine then got upset when people didn’t deliver – it was my fault as I didn’t define my expectations on delivery clearly enough.

3). Define the expectations – Much like the time/date, if you have expectations of what you require, put them down as well. If you want someone to take something and make decisions on your behalf, tell them or it will probably end up back on your plate.

4). Set a follow up – When you agree the time/date, agree what the follow up looks like – is it a meeting, an email, a document on your desk.

5). Define success – Not always relevant with smaller and more mundane tasks but essential with larger, more important ones. Say what you ideally want the outcome to be so the person you’re asking has some indication of what they are working towards.

6). Remember what you’ve delegated – I really struggled with this before. Where do I keep a note of what I’ve delegated? I’ve tried lots of systems but I’ve ended up using a fantastic service called NudgeMail. You simply send Nudgemail an email with the date you want it to ‘nudge’ you (for example and it will do just that. I don’t remind myself of everything I delegate but I do with the larger task as sometimes a casual nudge to the person I’ve delegated to is required and I believe that showing you care and haven’t forgotten can also be important 😉

Now Your Thoughts

  • Are you a control freak or have you mastered the art of delegation?
  • Have you got any tips for us on this art?


  1. Nick Watson on 15th April 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Great post Banksy. I’ve often found that when delegating, you need to give the person delegating to a sense of ownership of the task and freedom to tackle the task how they want it, but within your set guidelines.

    I’ll usually offer myself as a resource to the person, offering to help out – but re-enforce the fact that “I’m delegating this because I can’t do the whole thing” and that they need to decide as and when they need to use me.

    When asking me questions, I’ll point the person in the right direction but never give them direct answers or do the task for them, as this defeats the whole point of delegation.

    Within time, the delegate will be pro-active enough to take on any task you set them without needing to ask you the next step constantly.

    To demonstrate this in an example, I’ll usually something simple as making a cup of tea….

    How I wouldn’t:

    I need you to make me a cup of tea, white one sugar. Please use the kettle in the kitchen and press the button on the side to bring it to boiling. Use the milk in the fridge and the sugar in the cupboard, which you should add with a teaspoon. When you’re done, please bring it to my desk and put it on this coaster here.

    How I would:

    I need you to make me a cup of tea, white one sugar. How you do this is up to you but if you need them, there is a kettle, sugar and milk in the kitchen. If you struggle, ask one of the guys in the office and I’m sure they will be able to help – or if not, I’ll give you a hand. I need this in the next 5-10 minutes before my meeting at 3pm.

    Ok, so this would be patronising and in reality all I’d ask is for a cup of tea, but it demonstrates how I give ownership to the task, with guidelines – rather than tell them exactly how they need to do it.

    • Banksy on 19th April 2011 at 8:26 am

      Thanks Nick your post has reminded me of something extremely important that I forgot to say. A lot of people who delgate don’t understand that by delegating the task is still ultimately theirs. You delgate authority to someone, but the responsibility that the task gets done properly is still yours and if they mess up, it’s on your shoulders. This is absolutely critical for managers to understand – it’s not simply a way of getting rid of things they don’t want to do.

      A very important point, thank you for prompting me 🙂


  2. Scott Gould on 18th April 2011 at 7:34 am

    Thanks for this reminder Al. Very good points for delegating here so thank you.

    I’d recommend “Leadership and the One Minute Manager” for the ultimate premier on developing and deleagating

    • Banksy on 19th April 2011 at 8:27 am

      Thanks Scott I love the One Minute books – very easy to digest indeed

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