Delegate—don’t dump Print
Written by Kelly Harding   
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 02:39 PM America/New_York

Assigning duties according to ability makes for a great team


As retailers, we have a lot on our daily “to-do” list. From meetings to inventory control, payroll to stocking shelves, we have no trouble keeping busy. It is a given that our daily checklist will go unfinished into the next day only to grow longer. Add in our family or personal life, and it is easy to see how one could become overwhelmed by the day-to-day responsibilities. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a way to accomplish some items without taking time and attention away from others? What if there were one word that would allow us, as business owners and managers, to truly focus on high-priority tasks without sacrificing the remainder of our “to-do” list? There is such a magnificently simple word—delegation!

I can sense your doubt and hesitation, but when done properly, delegation will alleviate much of the stress we experience when faced with a daunting list of tasks each day. Delegation, by definition, is the distribution of tasks or responsibilities to your staff. However, there is a greater meaning to the delegation of daily tasks. By asking someone else to handle certain responsibilities, you use your employees’ strengths to everyone’s advantage. Through effective delegation, everyone on your team will benefit. As the owner or manager, you will gain precious time to focus on those tasks you cannot delegate such as payroll and accounts payable and receivable. In turn, your staff will have opportunities to learn and gain new experience.

First and foremost, delegating well means you must determine which strengths your staff possesses. It’s most effective to observe your employees as they work. During the initial training period of a new employee, there is ample opportunity to learn about him or her as you work together. For example, if you notice an employee who comes around behind everyone and tidies up, you may have found an ace at organization. Do you have someone on your staff with a creative bent? Try out that team member with displays and merchandising. If a staff member’s strengths don’t seem that obvious, try a few different tasks.

Second, remember that delegating is not the same as dumping work on your employees. There are a few distinct differences between the two. Delegation requires teaching, while dumping your duties assumes the employee can and will do things correctly. If you dump your responsibilities on your staff, they likely will become overwhelmed with tasks they may not be adequately equipped to accomplish. Through delegating, you are giving your staff proper instruction and clear expectations that empower that team member to meet or exceed expectations.

There are four steps to putting effective delegation into practice:

1. Thoroughly explain the task at hand. Before assigning the task or having an initial discussion with your staff member, write out the steps involved or the responsibilities included in the task. Be prepared to explain each step of the process as well as any specifications, such as budget or time limit. Make sure you can clearly define your expectations and be prepared to share those with your employee.

2. Answer any questions immediately. After explaining the task or responsibility, leave time for any questions your employee may have. Answer questions and address concerns immediately. This includes being receptive to your staff member’s ideas and opinions. Be available for clarification or assistance when needed. Keep in mind that when you delegate a task, your employee is given the same authority you would have to complete the assignment. And know that they may not do things exactly the way you do.

3. Do not be a helicopter boss! After you have explained the assignment and answered any questions, move on to a different task. Allow your employee to work independently while you tackle some of those long-neglected items on your to-do list. After you delegate a task to your employee, do not try to maintain control over their efforts. Hovering over your staff member defeats the entire purpose of delegation. You do not save any time or effort and your employee does not gain any confidence or a sense of trust.

4. Provide feedback and correct any issues. During the project and after its completion, provide feedback to your staff member. Give constructive criticism and advice, correcting any red flags you saw throughout the process. This is also a great time to receive feedback from your employee. Did he enjoy the work or was it too stressful? Are you pleased with the results and your team member’s effort? Discuss the positives and the negatives.

Delegating responsibilities to your staff strengthens the entire team. You are given the freedom to focus on those projects you have wanted to accomplish but have managed to find their way to the bottom of your list. Employees feel valued and confident in their expanding role in your store. Now, what will you delegate first?

Kelly Harding has been manager of Central Christian College Bookstore in Moberly, Missouri, since 2010. The store serves the college campus, the community and churches in North Central Missouri.