Four barriers to delegating and what to do about them

A 3-minute read

A major pitfall for many growing businesses is the owner’s inability to let go and delegate responsibility to employees. In effect, the limitations of the entrepreneur become the limitations of the business.

There’s no doubt it’s challenging to strike the right balance between maintaining control over your business and delegating to employees or contractors. But your refusal to hand over responsibility can take a devastating toll on business results, employee engagement and your personal life.

You’ve probably heard plenty of times it’s important to delegate work to your employees. So why don’t you do it more?

Delegating doesn’t come easy to many entrepreneurs. It’s often seems simpler to just do the job yourself. Or you may not have money to hire help.

“A lot of entrepreneurs work 60 or 70 hours a week, but they’re doing a lot of jobs someone else could be doing,” says BDC business consultant Jean Joncas, who has coached entrepreneurs for 20 years.

“When you delegate, you can focus on what you love to do and what brings the most value to your business.”

Here are four top barriers to delegating and Joncas’s tips for getting around them.

1 It’s easier to do it yourself
If you want something done right, do it yourself, right? Wrong! If you want your business to grow, you can’t possibly do everything yourself. Even if you could, it’s a bad idea. You can’t be the best at everything. Plus, you’ll lose quality employees if you don’t trust them to do their job and give them increasing responsibility. That implies letting them make mistakes and do things differently than you. “If you don’t give up some control and trust your employees, you become the bottleneck to your company’s growth,” Joncas says.

2 You lack time
A lack of time is one of the main reasons entrepreneurs give for not delegating. The irony, is that delegating can free up enormous amounts of time. But many business owners are so busy keeping the plates spinning, they won’t take time to hand off tasks. It’s often a symptom of larger problems. “The entrepreneur who doesn’t have enough time ends up doing jobs badly,” Joncas says. What to do? Write down all your tasks over the course of two weeks, along with how much time you spend on them. Entrepreneurs who do this often discover they spend surprising amounts of time on work that someone else in their team could do. Try delegating some of it, and shift your focus to tasks that only you can do and which bring the greatest benefit to your company.

3 You lack money
Many business owners complain they don’t have money to hire someone to take on a portion of their work. But investing the money to hire help usually brings a solid return on your investment, Joncas says. “It’s very profitable for your business if you can delegate work others can do. You get a better quality of life, more sales and more money to pay for an assistant or manager to help you.”

4 You don’t know how
Some entrepreneurs would like to delegate, but aren’t sure how to parcel out tasks to someone else. The key is to start slowly with some of the most routine work you identified in your task analysis above. Then, think about your team, and identify someone reliable who could take those on—one at a time, if needed. Or hire someone, even if it’s only part-time or as a contractor. Now move on to more complex tasks. Take baby steps.