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The Micromanager's Guide to Delegation

An action plan for having a little less action on your daily to-do list.

It's a common dilemma: As an entrepreneur, you've built your business by tackling everything that comes up, from the smallest detail to the most important strategic decisions. But you can't keep that up forever. In fact, you probably should have begun to delegate a long time ago. But it's never too late to do less. Here are a few steps you can take as you become more comfortable with the idea of letting go (a little): 

1. Keep a diary.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford business school professor, is a big fan of keeping track of tasks in an organized way. Take notes daily. From there, you can figure out the best use of your time--and empower your best employees as well. "You may discover that you aren't really involving other workers in decision making," he says.

2. Have more people report to you. 

By increasing your so-called span of control, you can force yourself to delegate, simply because you can't micromanage the activities of so many people. The result? You will have more time to get your claws into the tasks that really matter.

3. Know your people (really know them). 

New York City consultant John Beeson recommends assessing the skills of each team member and determining where training may be needed. (Or decide to hire someone who can do the job right away.) Also, he says: Look for things that take a lot of time but you don't do well, and give those tasks to someone else. Then, of course, get the heck out of the way.

4. Be a good coach. 

Each employee is different, right? So delegate differently, and evaluate your talent much as a good coach would. One employee may excel the first day on the job. Others may need you to stay involved longer. "Think of delegation as an investment," says Beeson. "You're making a capital outlay of your time now in order to reap benefits longer term."

From the March 2014 issue of Inc. magazine


Scott Leibs is executive editor of Inc. magazine, where he oversees the Lead and Build sections while also handling a range of other writing and editing duties for the magazine, website, and custom publishing projects. He is a former editor in chief of CFO magazine and a former senior editor for InformationWeek, and has written for many other publications, including The Economist and the San Diego Union-Tribune. He is a graduate of Emerson College, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts.

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