5 Ways to Improve CEO Delegation
What’s holding most CEOs back from success?
Our coaches often hear that they “don’t have enough time” or that “they’re constantly trying to do more with less.”
Those are very real problems, but it usually points to a leader who needs to learn how to delegate more effectively. “If you feel like there’s never enough time, chances are, you’re missing focus,” says coach Don Schiavone. “Delegating is a big part of that.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done. You don’t start a company or rise to the C-suite unless you’re a big doer. But once you’re there, that can backfire. “Most of my clients are in the weeds too much,” says coach Bill Brady. “The metaphor I like to use is that they should be piloting the plane at 35,000 feet, not loading baggage on the tarmac.”
The best leaders know how to delegate effectively to their team. Without it, you’ll be constantly stuck in a loop of feeling like there’s never enough time in the day — and you’ll be missing out on tapping into your team’s full potential. Here are our coaches’ top tips for CEO delegation:
1. Hire the right people
Delegating well starts with hiring the right people for your leadership team. You want to hire…
- A mix of skills that complement your own strengths and weaknesses
- The positions that the business needs for your current stage of growth
- Smart, competent team members that can get the job done as well as (or, ideally, better than) you can
“You have to surround yourself with A players,” says Schiavone. “If you’re going to delegate, you need to have the confidence that they will get the job done. Upgrade the talent beneath you or you’ll be stuck doing things yourself.”
Doing this requires building a culture of excellence into your organization from the get-go. “The key trick is to hire A+ people as they take over different buckets of your business so you can trust them right away,” says Brady. “Ultimately, I had to instill that value into every new hire so that when someone came on board, they could say, ‘Oh, that’s how Bill would want it done.’”
2. Let them do their jobs
You hired your team for a reason. Make sure that you actually delegate your tasks to them appropriately — and that they feel empowered to do their jobs, too. “I adhere to the motto that if you want something done right, do it yourself, but it’s not practical,” says Brady. “This was such a challenge for me at first because I wanted everything done perfectly. But once I hired these top performers, it changed my life and made me a more effective leader.”
If you’re going to delegate, that means getting out of the workflow completely. Leave Slack rooms, stop poking around your user feedback or project management tools, decline meetings, and most of all, don’t ask to be cc’d on emails. “The death of delegation is in the cc,” says Schiavone. “You’re not really delegating if you’re weighing in on the details. It’s still creating noise and making it more difficult for your team to make decisions. Get out of there.”
3. Communicate regularly
That doesn’t mean you won’t have oversight into your team activities. It just looks different. Instead of being involved in the daily whirlwind of projects, give each of your direct reports 1:1 time with you each week.
“Great communication is cultural,” says Brady. “I used to give my six direct reports time every Monday morning to discuss updates and to help them with challenges. I always felt like I knew what was going on in the company, even if I didn’t know the exact details. This cadence cascaded down to their direct reports and so on.”
Use an agenda or a dashboard that your report updates a few days prior to the meeting to make them more effective. Make sure the meeting is focused around what doors you can open and how you can help smooth things along, rather than grilling them on specifics. Remember, if you’re asking to look at an email copy, get access to an accounting spreadsheet, or look over the specifics of a recent client contract — you’re trapped in the weeds.
4. Be intentional about your role
Your job as CEO comes down to five things: vision, cash, the right people in the right jobs, key relationships, or learning. Delegating allows you to actually do this.
“Once I started delegating more, I could spend my time on what I was stronger at and more optimal for the company,” says Brady. “In my case, that was more strategy, vision, and fostering important relationships and alliances outside the company. I needed space to be able to look at the company from a macro level so that we could grow. ”
If you’re stuck, our coaches recommend the Stop-Start-Continue tool, which you can download here. This simple framework allows you to adjust your mindset so you can focus on the activities that matter to your business. This framework asks you to think about your goals and how you currently spend your time. Ask yourself:
- Stop: Which activities am I currently doing that aren’t leading to the outcome I want to achieve?
- Start: Which activities do I wish I could be doing instead? How will I free up time to be able to do them? (Here’s your delegating question!)
- Continue: Which activities am I currently doing that are working and I need to continue?
There’s a reason why the saying, “Work on your business, not in your business,” rings true for so many CEOs. But if you’re struggling to delegate, that’s easier said than done. “Hold yourself accountable,” says Schiavone. “We all know that if you don’t put it on your calendar, it won’t get done. I like to coach my clients to add ‘power hours’ to their weekly routine so they can make tangible progress toward their goals.”
5. Get a coach
Even the best leaders have blind spots. Hiring an executive coach can help you better identify which activities are worth delegating to your team — and which to leave behind. Our expert coaches have been in your shoes before and know how lonely it can be at the top. But it doesn’t have to be. Whether it’s helping access the strengths and weaknesses of your team or holding you accountable for your delegation plan, our coaches are here to help you make BIG happen.