Delegation in Family Businesses: A Guide for New Leaders

One of the most important skills a young leader in a family business must master is the art of delegation.

Effective delegation not only frees up time for you as the leader but also empowers your team, giving them room to grow, innovate, and showcase their skills.

The traditional approach to delegation has a “top down” feel to it. The focus is on taking tasks off your plate and giving them to your junior people.

My approach is more about fostering an environment where everyone feels like it’s a collective effort.

Instead of getting people to “help you” by handing them things to do, everyone pulls together as a team to add value to the organization.

Here are my 7 best tips for delegating in a more egalitarian way:

1. Accept that the Person May Do the Work Differently

It’s essential to recognize that when you delegate, there might be hiccups during the initial stages.

The people you delegate to might not get it perfect the first time. Acceptance is crucial.

Rather than being discouraged or thinking, “I should have done it myself,” view this as a learning opportunity.

On the upside, having someone bring a different perspective or method might even yield results better than you anticipated.

It’s a fresh set of eyes and new energy. Celebrate this diversity of thought.

2. Don’t Delegate Busywork

Before you pass on a task, ask yourself if it truly adds value to your business.

If something seems redundant or ineffective, it might not need delegation – it might not need to be done at all.

A perfect example from my past career was a nursery report that was meticulously created every week, requiring considerable time and effort – only to lie forgotten in a shared drive.

If no one finds value in a task, perhaps it’s time to reassess its utility.

The goal isn’t to offload your burdens, but to ensure tasks have purpose and worth in the big picture of the business.

3. Show the Person How Their Work is Valuable

Empowerment is a vital part of delegation.

Help team members see the bigger picture and understand the value of their contribution.

By letting them know the importance of their task and how it fits into the company’s goals, you not only make them feel valued but also ensure they’re more invested in the task’s success.

For bonus points, connect them with the people who will be using their work. Let them connect and check in: how can I make this better for you?

4. Follow Up but Don’t Micromanage

Once you’ve delegated, trust your team to get the job done.

Follow up to check progress, but don’t hover. An empowered team is one that feels trusted and capable without constant surveillance.

If you don’t feel it’s necessary to follow up on a task at all, you might want to reconsider its value.

Remember: no one appreciates being micromanaged. Letting go of control is crucial for the growth of the business and the individual.

5. Don’t “Talk Down to People” When Delegating

Delegation is about trust.

Avoid language that might come across as condescending or authoritative.

Phrases like “Take this off my plate” can sound dismissive and make team members feel like they’re merely doing you a favor.

Instead, view delegation as a shared responsibility—a journey you embark on together, aiming for collective goals. But avoid delegating the same task to multiple people, which can lead to confusion and inefficiencies.

The process should reflect mutual respect and trust, not a hierarchy of importance.

6. Don’t Delegate Things You Should Do Yourself

Not everything is meant to be delegated.

Some tasks require your personal touch.

For instance, if you’re invited to an event, consider the message it sends if someone else goes in your place.

My personal belief is that you shouldn’t delegate your dirty work. Even if you employ a housecleaner, you should clean your own toilet. Some things are just too personal to hand off!

7. Coach Your Team Instead of Micromanaging

Your role as a leader is to mentor and coach.

When you delegate, view it as an opportunity to boost the confidence of your team members.

Emphasize that the best learning comes from doing.

If they encounter challenges, remind them that these are opportunities for growth. Encourage them to take risks and be there to guide them when they falter.

Your job is to elevate your team, ensuring they excel in their roles. In doing so, you create a stronger, more cohesive unit, propelling your family business to even greater heights.

Delegation isn’t about lightening your load – it’s about empowering your team.

Delegation is a strategic move aimed at empowerment, growth, and the long-term health of your business.

As a family business leader, effective delegation can be one of your most powerful tools.

Use it wisely and watch your business and team flourish.

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