There is such a push for leaders to delegate to their subordinates that it would be understandable for a business owner or CEO to think her job IS delegating. Maybe if you're Larry Ellison or Jeff Immelt it is, but for the rest of us mortals, the job of CEO has a lot less glamor and a lot more day-to-day operational involvement.
As you grow your business, you will hire great people and should delegate as much of the business as you can and still have confidence. Having said that, there are some things that I believe you cannot delegate until you are much larger in size.
- Quality--Would you eat at a restaurant that the owner did not eat at regularly? Would you trust Steve Ballmer if he was using a Mac? The quality of your business, its products and services has to be inspected by you not just regularly, but daily. You also need to inspect it personally, not just through graphs and reports. The great CEOs I know check their quality personally and frequently. No one will have better eyes, ears, and intuitive knowledge of what quality means for the company than the founder, owner, and CEO.
- Innovation--Recently I spoke with an innovation consultant about whether innovation can be delegated. She told me that her company can provide a great deal of the process for ensuring innovation occurs regularly and effectively. Her company can drive companies to new ideas. However, the company's CEO has to set the goal, direction and make the choices in which innovations the company will invest.
- Financial Health--CFOs and controllers can be a huge help in understanding your financial condition. If you have a small business, maybe you are using a bookkeeper. Having your accounting and reporting tasks performed by trained professionals is smart. Trusting those people to make all of the decisions with the information is not. You are exclusively responsible for the financial health of your business. What the information means and the choices you make with it can not be delegated.
- Brand Message--If you hire a new marketing person or agency I can almost guarantee that you will be told that everything you have is wrong. Your website, logo, sales materials, tagline, tradeshow booth...the implication is that every choice you have made is wrong now or was always wrong. Sure, it can be useful to get a new perspective, but what your business stands for at its essence has to be defined by you, not delegated. The process of re-branding will create options; you have to make the choices.
- Hiring--I once was CEO of a company that hired 6,500 people in less than 4 years in 18 countries. I was not involved in every hiring decision to say the least. But I was the interviewer for the finalist candidates for my direct reports and their direct reports. In hiring the leadership of your company, you are determining the future success of the business and its culture. You must be involved when the stakes are that high.
Your most important resource is your own time, that's why delegation is such a great tool for leveraging that time for greater yield. Just make certain that you are careful in not delegating the wrong things.