When you move up to a leadership position, your job becomes helping your team accomplish all the day-to-day processes that keep the business going — the same processes you were likely doing yourself as a lower-level employee.
Many new managers struggle with this transition away from smaller tasks, but it's important to learn how to delegate. The higher-level strategic planning you're now responsible for takes time and energy, and you won't have either of those if you're bogged down with busywork.
"You have to put yourself in the position to be the coach, not the point guard," said Joshua Keller, CEO and co-founder of Union Square Media.
Whether you've just been promoted or you've been managing a team for a while, the following types of responsibilities should be distributed among your staff members, rather than filling up your own to-do list. [Smart Leadership: Delegate, Prioritize and Simplify]
Tedious tasks that don't impact growth
Everything you and your team members do is important to the overall functioning of the business. But certain things like shopping for supplies, data entry, file organization, clerical work and other administrative tasks aren't what really drives growth for your company. Basic functions that can be performed by any of your staff members without a lot of explanation or guidance should be assigned to free up your time.
"Always keep the big picture in mind when deciding which tasks to delegate to your team," said Michael Parrella, CEO of iLoveKickboxing. "Tasks that require a large portion of your time can distract you from doing the things only you can do to grow your business."
This becomes especially critical when your business expands. When Viki Sater founded her now-national business, Viki's Foods, she thought she would be able to handle the business's day-to-day needs on her own. But as she grew, she realized she needed more than the occasional volunteer to keep up with everything.
"It was impossible for me to micromanage every aspect of the production line, as well as distribution," Sater told Business News Daily. "At the company's start, I went from store to store trying to get my products on shelves. This became something I just was not able to continue as the company grew nationally. So, I hired brokers to present my line to buyers, hoping they had the same passion as I do."
Tasks that drain you
When you were at a lower level than you are now, you likely had certain tasks that you simply weren't motivated to do. As the boss, you may be able to pass some of these to-do's off to your staff to alleviate that mental and emotional drain on yourself.
"As the visionary, it's my job to stay passionate and drive that passion to the team," Parrella said. "Doing things I hate impedes that excitement that affects both the people, and bottom line, of my business."
Although it may seem like the path of least resistance, Stephen Sheinbaum, founder of alternative finance platform Bizfi, warned leaders that simply delegating the work they don't like doing is generally not a good strategic move. Tasks should be assigned to others only if it makes sense to do so — if you're the one person who can do this particular job function, you need to stick with it.
Tasks that someone else can do better than you
Being a leader doesn't automatically make you the right person for a project. Your staff members have their own skill sets — some of which can fill in your own gaps — so you must be humble enough to see and admit that someone else might be a better fit than you are.
"You need to put others in charge of doing the things they can do better than you," Sheinbaum said. "In businesses like mine, and in many businesses now, that means putting really smart people in charge of the information technology."
The art of delegation
If you're having a hard time shifting from "doing" to "guiding," our sources shared some advice to keep in mind to make sure you're actually delegating, and not micromanaging.
Be clear and purposeful in assigning tasks. "It is important to have clear delegation of duties and to be able to assign specific responsibilities to each individual. I know my staff and their attributes, so I personally work hard with every employee to find the best fit for each. This way, they take pride in their work and I am confident in my decision in their work assignments." – Viki Sater
Accept (and embrace) the potential for failure. "There will be mistakes. Failure is a part of growth, and too many leaders micromanage out of fear. This type of toxic leadership prevents the team from taking true ownership and caring deeply about their work. Their confidence builds with every lesson learned and I am able to take a step back to provide feedback as needed." – Michael Parrella
Empower your employees. "When people delegate, they too often focus on the task they are handing over rather than something much more important — they are turning over power, the authority to do things. If your employees have the authority to do something, they also have the responsibility to make sure it is done correctly. If you are stepping into the process [and micromanaging], you have not given enough power to your people." – Stephen Sheinbaum
Resist the urge to step in — even if it's easier. "So many times we get caught in the [mindset of], 'If I have to explain it to someone else it will take three times [longer] than doing it myself.' You have to work with people who have the ability to earn your trust. That way you can stay involved, [but you're not] parachuting in and doing their job for them. There is not enough time in the day to micromanage and do whatever you need to be doing to push the business forward. Without that ability [to delegate], you, your business and your employees will never evolve." – Joshua Keller