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Harnessing the power to delegate

January 27, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Getting Personal About Business, the blog of Zahn Consulting, LLC.

One of the first determinations a business owner or executive has to make is what their biggest or best contribution can be to the sustaining and scaling of the business. Hand-in-hand with those come decisions on what responsibilities to delegate to others. An article in the January Entrepreneur Magazine, written by Paula Andruss, addressed eight tasks that should be handed off to allow a business to grow. Her list includes:

  • Tasks that keep you from growing your business: Activities that could be accomplished by others that would free the owner or executives to focus on larger-scale impact opportunities;
  • Activities that will help speed up cash flow: Seeking ways of aggregating invoices or reducing time to payment;
  • Areas that are outside of your wheelhouse: One-time events, disciplines outside one's experience, activities that are not frequently completed, etc. that should be handled by experts;
  • Tasks that are already streamlined: Certain tasks or processes may have been optimized and are best left for others to continue to implement or monitor;
  • Tasks in areas with often-changing regulations: Tasks subject to frequent revision (tax code changes, safety requirements, web or internet changes, etc.);
  • Projects that impede development: If the executive's involvement slows down progress, it is best to delegate it to those who are more facile, familiar, and capable of maintaining momentum for projects, initiatives, or assignments;
  • Anything you want your team to learn: As a training tool, allowing others to organically generate their own learning or understanding by being challenged to solve a problem;
  • The stuff you simply hate to do: Tasks that the executive may find boring or unfulfilling. Let others do it proficiently.

Similarly, Michael Hyatt, author of the best-seller, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, speaks to the same topic in his blog post and provides a helpful matrix that clarifies the ways delegation can be helpful to a business owner.

Mr. Hyatt quotes Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, as saying, "I purposed never to do anything others could or would do when there was so much of importance to be done that others could or would not do."

By properly placing the decision or task into the correct quadrant, the decision becomes much easier to identify and the determination of what actions to take becomes known.

Discussion Questions:

What advice do you have for business owners around delegation? Which parts of the business are often the most difficult to let others manage?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

In your experience, do executives tend to delegate too much or too little?


The hardest part of delegation is to insure you are delegating, not abdicating. Business owners can become overwhelmed with day-to-day decisions and management. It is important to stay sufficiently involved to ensure the company is moving forward in a manner consistent with overall strategy, while not so involved to slow down progress (said more eloquently in the article). Finding the right balance brings success and a certain ease of mind.

When the pendulum swings too far in one direction and business owners are not standing watch, they lose control in a way that can bring about disaster. This is especially relevant when it comes to customer touch points. Hiring the best management team is critical, but staying in touch is even more important.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

Paula Andruss' eight tasks that should be delegated are brilliant. They provide all small business owners with an immediate checklist to improve productivity, as well as their own sanity.

I have found excellent corollary questions for those tasks you can't delegate today.

In order to be able to delegate remaining tasks (especially those you hate) what competencies are needed?

- What competencies need to be developed with existing staff?
- What competencies need to be added in hiring profiles?
- What competencies can be addressed through outsourcing?

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

This advice always looks good on paper. Reality is another thing. If only life would work according to good old quadrant charts!

My experience in helping the The Type A control freaks (I've been accused of being one myself) is that their constant explanation for why they don't delegate is that it's easier to (fill in the blank) myself than have to supervise and re-do whatever it was that was "delegated." They usually blame the competency of the delegatee. Truth is they could have God on their team and wouldn't delegate. (There may be some interesting spiritual lessons in that thought.)

My problem with this idealistic article is that it is so logical it totally leaves out the human factor.

Along this line, let me suggest Dr. Peter Robertson's book "Always Change a Winning Team" about how we are each necessary to our organization's growth...but only at certain stages. The trick is to know when you are needed and when you're not.

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Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

Almost all of the expert advice given on delegation equates to what your gut already tells you, which is to delegate those vital things that you won't do yourself.

One of the most difficult parts to let others manage are those things that could lend more credit to them rather than to the owner.

Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Know your personal strengths. Depending upon the size of the organization, more and more of these tasks should be delegated. If we are talking about a single store operator, then fewer tasks can be delegated, however. If the leader has great financial management acumen, then some of the tasks within that area may remain their responsibility, while another leader may wish to delegate those same tasks because of less expertise in that field. There should not be a one-size-fits-all template in this discussion.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

With the ever expanding world of C something or other O's finding a position of responsibility and/or decision making is now a greater challenge than ever. This is most confusing in an economy that demands more production from the employee, but nevertheless the issue does exist and continues to grow.

I suspect that in these times of wide spread changes in the world of retail we are seeing leadership struggle with new processes and technologies taking over without regard for the retailers capabilities to recognize new business needs for near- or long-term investments. Adding highly specialized talent to the leadership committees somehow makes sense to the board of directors in a lot of retail companies. But while it may be justifiable for the most part it has not helped, that is, according to the bottom lines.


Delegation is the key to a successful business, management team, and productive staff. One of the keys to delegation is a clear, flat, communication structure that embraces empowering the right individuals with the authority to perform their responsibilities unfettered, in an environment of trust and development. Issues and concerns should be approached as learning situations that enable the organization to grow and develop as these are addressed and solved.

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Kai Clarke, CEO, American Retail Consultants

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