02/25/2014 05:25 pm ET Updated Apr 27, 2014

Core Leadership: Why Delegation Is Essential to Growth

Success is never part-time. It doesn't come our way as the result of a half-hearted interest or investment. You've got to be all the way in -- go big, or go home. And you've got to care about every quiver and nuance of your brand.

But here's the paradox: as a business grows, the founding visionaries need to let go of the details. This seems like a contradiction, and I really get it. I am speaking as the Founder of my own company and I know just how challenging it can be to let go and delegate. Only by letting go of certain details and delegating them to fellow team members to handle that the company had the opportunity to truly grow. If I had clung on to the day-to-day details, or if I was a micro-manager, would my company be the success that it is today? The simple truth is no.

My advice for entrepreneurs who wish to expand their business? Simply let go. Although I know it's not as simple as it sounds. I see many of my executive peers struggling with this phase. It's a little like putting your child on a bicycle, and watching her or him wobble down the block, perhaps a bit unsteadily at first. As a parent, your first instinct is to sprint up beside them and basically beg them to let you pedal for them. It doesn't work that way.

What you are doing is trusting someone else with something precious. And you are surrendering control. It is almost near impossible to find someone who can do the job 100 percentas well as you would; but if you can find someone who can do it 80 percent as well, it's good enough. Take on only the responsibilities you, and only you can do. And as for the rest, delegate.

Not easy, especially for entrepreneurs. We don't work for someone else, because we are obsessed with our creative idea -- our "baby." But to really allow your offspring to grow and thrive, you have to turn it loose.


Step 1. Ask yourself, "What is my specific and unique contribution here? What is the work that no one else can do?" This is the definition of what you bring as a visionary and leader. Identify and isolate these qualities and write them down. Really, there will only be a few -- write them on an index card and carry it in your wallet.

Step 2. Ask yourself, "What distracts me from doing this specific and unique work?" Again, identify and isolate these distractions. Write them down. This list will be much longer than the first list.

For example: you do not personally need to be involved in the committee that plans the annual company holiday party.

Also, evaluate honestly what will happen to your business if you do not begin to re-assign and distribute the tasks which no longer require your personal expertise. How are you limiting and constricting the growth of your own business?

Step 3. Ask yourself, "Who on the team can take these commitments from me, embrace responsibility for them, and manage them in my place?" This requires analysis of Steps 1 and 2, and also a hard-eyed review of the talent currently in place in your company.

Step 3 is where your business has the opportunity to make a quantum leap. First, it frees you from minutiae which gobbles up your day and sucks away your energy. This creates open space where you can proactively think, improvise, explore and play.

Second, it requires that you examine who's on your team and what they have to offer. Perhaps this is the moment that a gifted team-member is offered an opportunity to manage a larger projects. If someone on the team shows a glimmer of potential which has not yet been utilized, get this person on your radar and find out what they're about, and if they're ready. Offer education and training so that she or he can step up with confidence.

And, prepare to hire. If you've been one of those non-delegators who has deliberately (though perhaps subconsciously) kept your team at a junior level, you honestly may not currently have the right people in-house. If you can't promote, hire -- and prepare for take-off.

"Core Leadership" is the first Installment of my new business series. Check back for more entries on business leadership and advice next month.