Work less, delegate more

Many business owners find it daunting to hand over responsibilities to their staff. But if you want your business to grow and succeed, it’s time to start loosening the reins.

A study by the late John Hunt, London Business School Professor and Financial Times columnist, found that only 30% of managers believe they delegate well. Of those, only one in three is perceived as a good delegator by their staff. This means only 10% of managers have mastered the skill of delegation1. But according to Euan Sneyd from Count Financial, it’s a skill more accountants need to learn in order for their firms to thrive.

Build your team’s capabilities

To be a confident delegator, the first step is to arm your team with the skills and knowledge they need to support your business effectively.

“Every time you have a client-facing meeting, you should bring another staff member along,” Euan said. “This is the fastest way to share information and technical knowledge across the team. It also means that as soon as you leave a meeting, you’ll be able to start allocating clear and specific tasks to team members, so you can push the work out into the business and avoid becoming a bottleneck.”

If you’re new to delegating, be prepared to put in extra time upfront while you get your staff up to speed. But rest assured that the additional effort will pay off in the long run.

“You should aim to build systems and processes that are robust and repeatable,” Sneyd added. “You might also need to guide each staff member through a particular task the first few times — but once they get it right, the next time they won’t have to rely on you for help.”

The right person for the task

To be a successful delegator, you should also have a deep understanding of each team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
Euan commented: “Doing a capability audit is a great place to start. It will get you thinking about each team member’s skill set, and you might realise that there are capabilities within your team that you’re not leveraging as well as you could be.”

You should also think beyond your team structure when delegating — the most senior person isn’t necessarily the right one for a given task. Sharing work evenly across the team will also help your junior staff develop their own skills, so they’ll be more confident to tackle urgent jobs when they crop up.

“If you delegate work well, you’ll be able to manage your firm’s workflow far more effectively,” Euan added. “Your clients will be happier as well because you’ll be able to get their work done faster.”

Learn to let go

So which tasks should you tackle yourself, and which ones should you delegate?

“Senior accountants should stick to higher value work like business coaching and advisory services, and leave routine tax and compliance work to junior staff,” Euan said. “Making that shift will free up more time for you to work on the business, rather than simply working in the business.”

For many business owners, sharing accountability can be unnerving at first. But according to Euan, it all comes down to having faith in your staff.

“If you don’t trust a team member to take responsibility for their share of your firm’s work, then they might not be the right fit for your business,” he said.

“Being a successful delegator is like conducting an orchestra — you shouldn’t try to play every instrument yourself. Instead, it’s about empowering your staff so you can bring out their best.”

1 "How To Delegate More Effectively In Your Business",, October 2, 2013.