In the Army as a young commander I had 30 men and women to achieve any task I might be required. Soon I will likely have a team of up to 200 men and women to achieve much more complex tasks. The point is, to be a successful leader and to complete the task to the best of my ability, I need to delegate.

This post will explain 5 reasons that you need to let someone else do the job. My old Commanding Officer once said to me:

In order to lead you must delegate, delegate until it’s uncomfortable and then delegate some more

1. Delegate, It’s your job!

People don’t mind doing their job. In my experience, when ‘the guys’ are sat around not doing anything and I have a job for them they’ll always complain. But, and it’s a big but, you must realise people are going to complain about anything. If you don’t give people work to do they’ll very quickly become bored, unmotivated and uninspired. There’s a lot of studies that suggest when you work hard your brain stimulation can lead to a healthier body and social life.

But ultimately as a CEO you simply can’t put in the work hours your staff can. As a young commander i’d need to be working 30 hour days to match my platoons potential even if everyone only worked 1 hour a day!

2. Delegate, you’re not the subject matter expert!

It’s impossible to know everything your employees know. This doesn’t make you a less professionally competent person, it makes you normal. Do you think that Richard Branson knows how to drive one of his trains? I certainly don’t know how to operate half the vehicles my team can.

Your value as a leader isn’t knowing how to do everything, it’s knowing who can do what and getting them to do it! This boils down to something we call the SWOT analysis. If you can identify who is good at what in your team you can efficiently achieve the goals required whilst giving your employees purpose.

Don’t be shy about it either. If there’s something you can’t do, or someone can do better, tell them! Not only are you building their confidence but you’re showing humility. Reason 4 on 5 Reasons you Need to Make Mistakes to be Successful explains the importance of being humble.

Delegate: Delegation 101

Delegation 101

3. Delegate, encourage team member ‘buy in’

As a CEO it’s your job to make a project work as well as possible. Clearly your motivations for a project succeeding are obvious but what are your team members’ motivations? They are, after all, the people who will be carrying out the task. Study after study will tell us that if you have a vested interest in something you’re going to put tonnes more effort into seeing it succeed. This is where you aim to get your team members to ‘buy in’ to an idea, task or project.

Buy in is a term we use in the military referring to the process of getting your team members to run with a project like it’s their own. There are several ways you should do this. The easy one is a reward of some kind. Clearly if the employee knows that doing a good job will lead to financial reward they have a vested interest in the project’s success. This however is an unreliable win. It instills a selfish ethos in your team and can lead to spoilt team members.

A much better way of achieving buy in is to let your team plan the project. Clearly as the CEO you will set the parameters, the constraints, freedoms and target outcomes but if you let your team develop the plan themselves then they’re far more likely to want to see it succeed. This is a win-win situation. You have motivated employees but you also have the benefit of their creativity. In the long term this will lead to a much more reliable team with a great work ethic.

4. Delegate, let your employees personally develop

Unless you let your team take on tasks you think you could probably do quicker yourself, you’ll never have staff that can do it for you. That’s because people learn by doing and making mistakes. You have to let teams make their own mistakes! Read here for more on why it’s important to make mistakes. If you let your team do the trickier jobs you could do better, before too long you’ll have a whole team that’s better at doing certain jobs than you are – now that is how a team becomes successful!

5. Delegate, focus your time elsewhere

There’s a reason you’re the CEO, manager or team leader. It’s because you have a set of managerial and leadership skills that your team might not. By allowing your team to complete tasks within their remit, you allow yourself time to complete tasks that only you can do. Whether that’s planning grand strategy, having key engagements with clients or preparing a whole new business plan; these are the things that will drive your business or team into success – You just need to make sure you have time to do it!

Have your say

If you feel that these are strategies that you (or your boss) has successfully or unsuccessfully adopted and have real life anecdotes I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below or on Your Thoughts – as always i’ll reply and may even elaborate on your story in a further article.

-The Military CEO