February 1, 2023

How to teach employees to be independent. Part 1

Let’s talk about the delegation process and the art of teaching your employees independence. This article will be especially useful to anyone whose work involves managing people and projects.

In the first part, Alexey Kulakov, CEO at JetStyle, and an expert on the Art of Business Management course, tells why and how to teach employees to be independent, how people learn something new, and what tasks at what level of responsibility can be delegated.

Let’s start by defining delegation. Delegation is the transfer of some responsibility to another person. When leaders delegate tasks to performers, they do not entirely relieve themselves of responsibility but only transfer an element of it. Such transfer is directly related to independence: the more independent is the performer, the more responsibility can be shared.

In this article, we will talk about teaching a person to be independent, control them less, and assign high complexity tasks. Let’s also figure out how the level of autonomy is related to delegation.

Not everyone needs delegation

Let’s start with the disclaimer: not everyone needs to delegate. For example, it is unnecessary to delegate to those who are engaged in business to self-fulfill through work.

Imagine a family-owned custom shoe workshop: if craftsmen like to make shoes by hand, if they enjoy the process and do not want to turn into a shoe corporation, then delegation will only hinder their self-fulfillment. 

If the primary motivation is to get joy from creative work, the business is not focused on rapid growth, the system is compact and plans to remain so, then you can continue to do everything yourself.

Another situation where delegation is optional is small companies with a team of up to 15 people. We are talking about those teams that are engaged in approximately the same and understandable tasks; for example, 15 employees are working on three sites. In this case, the structure is usually flat; everyone obeys the leader, and it is expected that he or she makes decisions.

When the team grows, for example, up to 25 people, the leader no longer has enough resources or the capacity to pay attention to some areas of work. To do so, they will have to delegate. However, if a small team is working on atypical, risky, or urgent tasks, you will have to start delegating earlier.

In this article, we will talk about delegation in the context of a fast-growing system.

The time of competent managers is the most scarce resource

The most scarce resource in any company is the time of competent managers. By managers here, we mean executives and entrepreneurs. The growth of the company depends on how much time and attention the skilled manager is spending. If a manager does not delegate tasks, he or she becomes a bottleneck.

Imagine: an entrepreneur is talented in finding new niches that can be quickly scaled up. If he or she does everything — looks for a niche and location, tests marketing channels, keeps accounting, hires and monitors specialists, it will quickly turn out that the growth of the company is limited by the time that an entrepreneur can spend on these tasks. In order not to turn into a bottleneck, they need to delegate.

Eliyahu Goldratt is the author of the theory of constraints; he suggests looking at an organization as a system of links. The key idea of ​​the theory is that there is one bottleneck in the system. The efficiency and stability of the entire system depend on the efficiency and throughput of this weak link. 

If we talk about innovative entrepreneurship, it is always in an area of high uncertainty; otherwise, it would not be innovative. In innovative companies, there is no way to foresee everything in the regulations — changes are too often, and there is a lot to decide. There are no standard instructions; people make decisions in their area of ​​responsibility, which means they should be independent subjects.

A call center where you need to answer calls using a script would be the opposite. The assignment to answer calls can hardly be called delegation because, in this case, people cannot make decisions: they act according to instructions, like robots. By delegation, we mean assigning a task to an independent subject and not to a human-machine.

It turns out that delegation is closely related to such a term as independence.

Part 2 coming soon. 

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