Learn to delegate or it will kill your growth

Failure to delegate tasks effectively will put the brakes on your growth and prevent your workforce from developing crucial skills

Learn to delegate, warns Richard Houghton
Learn to delegate, warns Richard Houghton

One of my fondest moments from my early agency days was watching a board director follow a secretary out of the office to make sure that the new business documents for the next day’s pitch were photocopied properly. (OK, it’s not that funny but we had to get our office kicks where we could pre-internet.)

The reality was the director was much less qualified to do the copying and clearly wasn’t going to be improving our chances of winning the pitch by watching one of the team do their job.

The ability to delegate is a critical agency management skill and one that will kill your growth if you don’t get the hang of it.

If you are not delegating consistently and effectively then it is likely that you are not focusing on the critical issues that will drive agency growth, not making the best use of all the talent in the agency and not allowing that talent to grow and develop.

The majority of agency heads and directors have been promoted as a result of being skilled PR practitioners rather than experienced business managers, and the temptation to keep dabbling in client work and administration can be irresistible.

But there are enough issues for agency heads to be handling without the need to do other people’s jobs.

As with many things in agency life, the starting point for good delegation is having a plan and knowing what you are responsible for and how success will be measured.

So if you don’t have a clear business plan, now is the time to get one done. Once you know what you are responsible for, and where the bulk of your focus should be going, it becomes clearer what you should not be getting yourself involved in. This is where learning to be an effective delegator makes a huge difference. 

Before you delegate do ask yourself whether there is a team member more qualified to the job. Surprisingly, you probably aren’t the best at every aspect of agency management and client work.

Would the job give one of the team a chance to raise their profile and add to their skills base? Are the timescales realistic? Is it likely that the activity will be repeated? If so it makes sense to plan ahead and see it as permanent delegation.

There are some basics to get right when sharing the workload.

First, explain why it’s important the work gets done – the context. Second, offer guidance and importantly the resources necessary to get the job done. Make yourself available to answer questions, especially if it is the first time the team member has done the task.

Provide specific, clear and constructive feedback on the work that has been delegated. 

Last, don’t forget that the grunt work should be shared around. Every agency has stuff nobody wants to do – so make sure you do your share. You’ll remind yourself what your team has to deal with day-to-day and they’ll respect you more for it. But do leave the printing to the experts.

Richard Houghton is a business consultant: richard@agencydoctor.biz

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