Tips for Successful Task Delegation


Many landscape business owners and entrepreneurs can find it difficult to shift responsibilities onto employees. But, delegation is key to significantly growing a business and relieving stress and time constraints for the owner.

In order to find the best people for the job, one must first know what job to hire for. Deciding what tasks to relinquish to others isn’t always easy — and it won’t be the same for every business owner. It’s time to determine what to delegate. Roger Woods, senior lecturer in operations management at Michigan Tech’s School of Business and Economics, suggests using the quadrant theory as a simple way to discover the best tasks to outsource:

  • Divide a piece of paper into four quadrants.
  • Consider the right two quadrants as tasks you enjoy, and the left two as ones you don’t.
  • Consider the top two quadrants as tasks you’re good at, and the bottom two as ones you’re not.
  • Tasks showing up in the lower left are generally the best ones to delegate first.
  • The tasks in the upper right – the ones you like to do and are good at – may be good ones to prioritize.

Another test is to look at tasks in terms of profitability. For example, say it takes you three hours to write up your invoices each week. If you can hand that task to a trained bookkeeper who can do it in an hour, even if you pay her the same amount you can earn in an hour, hiring her puts you ahead by two hour’s worth of profits. (Plus, for a lot of people, it gets rid of a rather undesired task.) The numbers work out even better if your hourly earnings amount to more than hers.

Deciding what tasks to delegate depends on your ultimate goals. Some business owners are happy keeping their companies small and doing a lot of the operational work themselves. However, if your goal is to grow your company past that point, you will likely find yourself gravitating primarily toward big-vision tasks, such as strategic planning and building relationships with clients and your team.

“I have three deliverables,” explains Maurice Dowell, owner of Dowco Enterprises Inc., a full-service landscaping firm in Chesterfield, Missouri. “Making sure we’re working with the right customer, making sure we have the right talent and making sure we have the financials in place. Either we need more money, more work or more workers. If they’re all in balance then it’s fun.”

Read more: Using Delegation to Optimize Your Team’s Results

Tips for successful task delegation

It’s a rare employee who will take the initiative and make things happen all on their own. To truly benefit from leveraging other people’s work, it’s important to give them structure. Written job descriptions can help employees fully understand their responsibilities as well as those of their co-workers. This can go a long way toward eliminating confusion about who is supposed to do what, which can undermine both productivity and morale.

Accountability is key, says landscape business consultant Ed Laflamme of The Harvest Group. “Without accountability it won’t happen, and accountability starts with the owner. One of the big problems with most owners is that they don’t know how to hold people accountable.” The goal is to accomplish the goals you’ve set for your company, so it’s important to keep end results in mind. It helps to have action items clearly listed with who’s responsible, how long the item should take and what resources they need to accomplish. Then they need to be reviewed on a monthly basis as a group. If a person in those meetings is continually not delivering results then the person responsible will need to make a decision whether that person should remain a part of the team.

In many top landscape companies, regular performance reviews occur far more frequently than the standard annual review. “We’ll do a yearly review, but we also do weekly coaching sessions with all our managers and supervisors,” explains Dowell. “They, in turn, meet with their people for weekly coaching sessions. I hold the boss accountable for the people underneath them. There’s always that accountability, so that when it comes time for the yearly review there are no surprises.” As an added bonus, he notes that the frequent reviews have not only improved performance in his company, but also reduced the need to fire underperforming employees. The better employees appreciate the consistent guidance, while the system purges those who are not cut out for success. “It’s no fun to fire someone, but when you hold up that mirror — Have you hit your sales goals? Have you hit those production goals? — if they’re not consistently doing those things, they’re going to start looking for a job. And you get a note that they’re giving their two weeks. And that’s great.”

Read more: How to Find and Develop a Right-Hand Man (or Woman)