Effective leaders delegate

January 1, 2005 By    

One of the main reasons retail propane companies stop growing is because their leaders have poor delegation skills.

Carl Hughes, LP/Gas Magazine Columnist
Carl Hughes, LP/Gas Magazine Columnist

As a business grows, the limited amount of time a manager has will quickly be absorbed by executing various tasks until there is no time left to take on anything new. When a manager says, “We have about all we can handle,” it means the leadership team does not know how to delegate. Effective, growth-oriented companies have management teams that excel in delegating as they grow.

Running a retail propane operation means managing thousands of detailed activities every week that fall under the various umbrellas of scheduling, delivering gas, interacting with customers, and other familiar tasks. Segmented further, they require oversight and decision making on a very detailed level.

Organizing and directing drivers, sales people and service technicians requires managerial effort and the most limited resource you have – time. It’s ripe territory for delegation as most tasks run little risk of failure since they are fairly simple, basic requirements in our industry.

The objective of delegation is for managers of an organization to shift time spent from activities of low productivity to other, more appropriate individuals, freeing up your time for more productive activities like growing business and becoming more profitable.

For a single day – or better yet, a week – track exactly how you spend your time. Be honest and objective, and break down your activities into major categories.

Now figure out what can be delegated. Begin with tasks that can most easily be assigned to others – simple tasks that require little training and can be easily monitored.

Simple steps toward delegation are:

  • Define the task you want to delegate.
  • Assign it to an individual.
  • Communicate and explain desired results.
  • Provide the necessary resources; often this is information.
  • Train the individual gradually; don’t drop it in his or her lap then vanish.
  • Support the change; don’t abdicate your responsibility, but give the authority.

If your company is small, start with the most basic of tasks. Gain experience in the delegation process. Learn to train, motivate and monitor others on the passing off of these tasks. Expect small failures. Ease into this process gradually.

Patience and positive reinforcement are your management tools to use. As you train an employee, you also are training yourself to become better at delegating.

If your company is large, don’t assume that your time is not consumed by activities that can be passed off to others. The most effective leaders know that they must personally keep growing, and adding new skills. To do so they must continue to examine where they spend their time and what responsibilities can be delegated.

When you delegate to others in your organization, your organization becomes stronger. No longer is your business dependent upon you for its success. As each task and decision is passed to another person in the company, you have two people who can do a job – you and the person with whom you delegated it to. Your company is stronger as a result.

Better yet, the newly trained individual has gained new skills, making him or her more valuable to both themselves and your company. As these individuals grow in skills, they may need to learn to delegate tasks to others. This delegation process will continue, and will ultimately define the entry level of the organization.

If this cycle of delegation is not started in your organization, you will always struggle with how to grow as employees are unable to take on more. Phone calls, deliveries, customers – and your profits – will be nothing but a memory.

Carl Hughes is vice president of business development for Inergy LP. He can be reached at 816-842-8181 or by email at Chughes@InergyServices.com.

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