Delegation is a topic quickly making waves in the fitness industry because of its ability to increase efficiency, productivity, and time management for busy fitness business owners. Delegation is the process of passing off authority and responsibilities to another individual within the business or organization. While some business owners struggle to let go of control within the business, others tend to micro-manage their direct reports. It’s easy for business owners to feel like they’re the only people capable of moving the business forward. However, delegation is an essential management tool that has many benefits to the long-term success of the business. Proper delegation can refocus the owner’s time, attention, and effort to higher ROI activities and areas that amplify his or her unique strengths and capabilities. Understanding how to develop an airtight delegation process is the key to reaping these benefits.
One common misconception surrounding the topic of delegation is that delegating is simply giving up an item or obligation to create extra time for the business owner. Delegation does free up some time for the business owner, but more than that, it is an exchange of duties, not just a passing off of duties. When the business owner passes off an item to an employee, he or she exchanges those tasks for the new responsibility of managing the individual now responsible for completing said tasks. A proper delegation process must include the following four steps:
Step 1 – Identifying the activities to delegate
The first step to developing a delegation process is identifying the specific activities needing to be delegated. This is best accomplished by creating a list of the specific activities that should be delegated to another individual.
There are two types of activities that can be appropriately handed off to an employee:
- Single tasks - These are one-off items the employee assumes responsibility for.
- Responsibilities - These are ongoing items within the business that the employee takes ownership of moving forward.
Step 2 - Establishing the responsible parties and their authority
Step two is primarily about identifying the individuals who will be taking over these activities and the level of authority they will have once they have taken ownership over these items.
When evaluating potential candidates to delegate a responsibility or task to do, a business owner should be sure the item fits within the scope and capabilities of the individual; alternatively, the business owner must be willing to invest in that individual’s growth and development in order to equip him or her with what’s needed to take ownership of the new task.
It can be challenging to assess the potential risk, importance, and benefits of passing along certain decisions to team members. The individual responsible will need to have a clear understanding of what freedom he or she has to make decisions as well as when and how to seek approval from the manager when making decisions. By clarifying what needs to be communicated and what freedoms have been given to the team member to exercise, both the business owner and the team member are set up for successful delegation.
The tree analogy is a terrific aid to help with assessing and evaluating what level of authority should be passed on to a team member.
Decisions should be broken down into four categories.
- Leaf decisions: These decisions generally consistent of day-to-day decisions (but not exclusively). These are decisions the employee has the authority to act on without reporting that action to his or her manager.
- Branch decisions: Branch decisions refer to routine decisions. These should be reported to the manager, but no action or discussion is generally necessary beyond that.
- Trunk decisions: Trunk decisions are significant and could be potentially harmful to the tree. These decisions need to be discussed with the manager before any actions is taken.
- Root decisions: Root decisions are mission critical and may kill the tree if the wrong decision is made. Root decisions should not be delegated.
Along with “root decisions” or the most impactful business decisions, there are a variety of tasks that should stay within the hands of the business owner. These include activities that specifically leverage the business owner’s strengths and unique capabilities, which includes cost-prohibitive activities, and activities that directly impact the success and health of the business. If an activity is vital to keep business moving forward, that activity is best kept under the responsibility of the business owner.
Step 3 – Delegation of activities
Once a list of activities has been created, the new responsible individual has been selected, and that individual’s level of authority has been decided, it is time to create a list for this individual with his or her specific activities and the authority level that pairs with that activity.
Handing off these items to the employee should be done with care. Each item should be explained in depth to provide understanding and expectations should be clearly established. The employee should then state these items back to the manager along with the authority level he or she has over each item. The business owner should also allow room for questions from the employee and seek to provide as much clarity up front as possible. This is best practice to make sure both parties are on the same page upfront to avoid any misunderstandings or missed expectations after the handoff is complete.
Step 4 - Coaching and accountability
This is where the actual exchange of responsibility takes place. The employee now has taken over the specific activities assigned to him or her, but will need ongoing support, accountability, and coaching to ensure the outcomes from these new tasks and responsibilities are met.
The business owner should have a clear picture of what success looks like. It is important to recognize there is a difference between completion of a task and the objectives of the task being met. As is in most cases, it is in the best interest of the business owner to be results-oriented when measuring the success of a task’s delegation. However, being open-minded to the employee’s perspective on how these activities could be improved for better outcomes may result in tremendous value to the business owner. This will require a safe environment for the employee to make mistakes, but to receive constructive counsel on how to learn and grow from mistakes.
Successful delegation can provide substantial growth opportunities for employees and can continue to develop them into leaders within the business while providing owners room to focus their attention on tasks and responsibilities only they are capable of. An example of this in practice could be passing on the upkeep of gym equipment to a team member who then becomes responsible for keeping the equipment clean each week, so the business owner is able to dedicate more time to the marketing efforts of the business. An example of poor delegation would be trying to pass off the sales process to a team member who has not been trained in sales and lacks the skillset necessary to drive sales conversions.
In summary, delegation is an essential management function that has the potential to create margin and greater efficiency for the business owner while simultaneously developing team members. In order to delegate well, the business owner must first identify the items, activities, or outcomes that need to be delegated. Then, he or she must identify the individuals to delegate these responsibilities to and the authority level they have over these tasks. Once a list has been established and the new responsible individuals have been identified, the business owner must pass these items off and provide continuous coaching to those employees. Being mindful of both the areas that should and should not be delegated is vital to this process enabling the long-term performance of the business.