What’s the biggest benefit of hiring help for your small business?
Plenty of people would assume it’s getting more done. Two people can do more work than 1. Four people can do more work than 2.
And that certainly is a benefit of building your team!
But it’s not the biggest benefit.
The biggest benefit of hiring help is diversifying the perspectives, skill sets, and outputs that the business has access to.
With different perspectives, the team can anticipate more challenges and spot more opportunities. You’re better able to notice when a change might not land well with customers and less likely to fall prey to confirmation bias.
With different skill sets, the team can do a larger variety of work. One person’s skills and strengths can balance out another skills and strengths.
When the business is producing different kinds of outputs, it’s able to help more people or weather changes in the market with less disruption.
But here’s the thing about diversifying the perspectives, skill sets, and outputs your business has access to: it means you end up getting different people approaching tasks or projects differently than you would.
Which is great…
…until you realize that, in order to really get the benefit, you have to give up on the pervasive belief that your way is the “right way.”
That’s when things get twitchy. So many of us grew up with some version of the “If you want it done right, done it yourself” narrative.
And even if we can laugh now about how ridiculous that is, we still practice it on a daily basis.
So here’s what I wish every small business owner knew about delegating:
Just because someone does the work differently than you would doesn’t mean it’s not good enough.
One of the biggest hang-ups I’ve had to work through as a manager and perfectionist is expecting people to do things the way I would do them.
Other people do things differently than I would and that’s okay. In fact, it’s great.
Yet these differences remain one of the scariest parts of handing over responsibility for a task or project to a team member or specialist. We’re wary of differences. We learned to score an A or earn a gold store by following instructions to the letter.
It takes serious work to reset this mindset—but you can create something really special and feel completely supported when you do.
Start by interrogating your own expectations.
Once you’ve been running your business and doing your work for a period of time, you stop thinking about what you’re doing and just do it. It’s comfortable and easy. But that often means we don’t have a clear framework or process to share with someone else.
Bring more attention to how you do what you do, why you do it that way, and what your goals are for any given task so you can reverse engineer the key parts of the process. Consider the next task you need to do or project you want to work on. Ask yourself:
- What is the goal of this task or project? Why does it matter?
- What are your non-negotiable expectations for this project? Why do they matter?
- What doesn’t matter about the way the work is done or the final output?
- How might someone else actually do the work better than you could?
By focusing on goals and true expectations—as well as why they matter—you start to get a real sense of what’s important and what’s just not when it comes to how work is done. This gives you a stronger foundation for training someone or communicating what you’re looking for from their work.
Before you train someone to do anything, remind yourself (or, at least, put on a post-it on your computer so you never forget) that someone else can do things differently than you would and it’s still good work.
Sean does things differently than I do. Shannon does things differently than I do. Lou does things differently than I do.
And each of us produces really good work.
If I fixated on making their work look just like my work, I would never get anything done.
I’ve totally done this before—so I know this to be true!
In order to truly feel supported by my team, I’ve had to focus more on what our shared goals are and less on the particular details of any project. That’s a hard mental shift to make. But it’s been completely worth it.
Now, that is all fine and good. And… it’s not just me that’s had to make that mental shift. It’s also my team members.
Next, create an environment where team members can think differently, too.
Almost every person who has been an employee has had a boss that micromanages them into doing work the exact way the boss would do it. That, along with plenty of other factors, means that most of our team members come on board expecting to do things the way we’d do them.
So we need to help them make the mental shift, too.
I’ve learned to explicitly release ownership of a project or a task to my team members. Here’s what that typically looks like:
- Task or project is identified.
- Goal for the task or project is agreed on.
- I say something to the effect of, “You’ve got this. I trust you. Let me know if you need any help, otherwise, I’m excited to see what you come up with.”
- Get the hell out of the way.
Maybe that third step seems gratuitous. I can assure you that it is not.
You also might be thinking, “Um, I’m not sure that I could actually say those words and believe them.”
Oh, I get that, too. You won’t believe them at first. Your team member might not believe you when you say it.
But hold firm. When you act as if you have full trust in your team member, your team member is more likely to act as if they have your full trust. And that’s how, eventually, you both start to believe it!
Over time, you experience the full benefit of having the diverse set of perspectives, skill sets, and outputs that comes from investing in help. Let’s take a look at what delegation actually means: Delegation is the act of empowering another to act on your behalf.
Does that mean everything will be hunky-dory? No! But with practice and patience, you’ll find a sense of peace and, ultimately, be supported in a much more effective way—so that everyone can work toward the mission of the business.