Delegate Effectively

How your company can achieve more if you do less

A recent Gallup survey of company leaders demonstrates that those who effectively delegate authority see their companies grow faster and generate more revenue.

So why is it that many painting contractors — and, perhaps, you — have such a hard time turning even tasks of seemingly minimal importance over to employees, and instead put so much on their own to-do list? Do contractors really want to work 60, 70, 80 hours — or more — a week?

Of course not. But a variety of reasons could be conspiring to keep you from effectively delegating, ranging from a simple lack of confidence in personnel, to a psychological urge to do things your own way, to a fear of being viewed as unable to contribute. And since time is often the most valuable commodity in a contractor’s control, it’s best that you get past whatever prevents you from delegating effectively and assign responsibility to team members. The result will not only free up time for yourself — it will also empower your team to deliver higher levels of performance.

The following are some ideas we’ve gathered from multiple sources about effective delegation. They start with having the right personnel in place.

Hire smart. You typically hire team members to perform painting-related tasks, and their skills with a brush and roller are no doubt valuable. Painting is trainable, however, some other soft skills could grow more important over time. When you hire new team members, look for leadership skills, or a demonstrated ability to learn and perform new tasks. Ask yourself, do they appear to be a good “fit” for the culture of your company? Are there certain tasks you could envision turning over to them? What strengths do they have that could eventually prove complementary to your operation? Your needs for labor might be immediate but be sure to look at the bigger picture for potential and roles they might fill for you down the road.

Let them create solutions. Does your phone ring, for example, every time your team forgets a drop cloth, or whenever a sprayer fails to operate properly? Imagine how nice it would be if you had proactive personnel who sought to create solutions without your involvement. Problem-solving skills are essential for personnel at every level of your operation and giving your people the freedom to create solutions not only frees up your time but demonstrates and builds confidence in your team members. Consider teaching them a simple step-by-step approach to resolving jobsite issues such as that below.

  1. Identify the goal of the project, and exactly what is preventing the goal from being accomplished.
  2. Build a greater understanding of whatever the problem is.
  3. Research a corrective path and create a short list of solutions.
  4. Look objectively at the list of solutions, remove emotion from the equation, weigh pros and cons, and consider whether outside advice is needed.
  5. Choose a solution, enact it, and monitor its effect.

Your team member may or may not be ready to take full responsibility for problem-solving but empowering them as they demonstrate problem-solving ability is an excellent way to ensure that jobsite problems can be solved in the future without your involvement.

Listen. There will be times to teach and there will be times to listen to your team. And in many cases, the listening might be most important. Let your team members tell you how comfortable they are with higher levels of responsibility. Listening will also help you identify the individual talents of your team and learn which of them is most ready for greater levels of responsibility.

Give them the tools. Leadership skills are valuable but growing the hard skills of a painter can help give them confidence to be teachers and leaders themselves. Sherwin-Williams offers a variety of skill-building Paint Pro Training videos that can grow your team’s capabilities. The video course offerings range from surface preparation, to brush & roller basics, to paint selection. Growing their skill levels not only builds the confidence of your team members, it improves the quality, profitability, and efficiency of your business as a whole.

Set clear goals. Successful delegation starts with ensuring that the person (or people) to whom you are delegating responsibility knows exactly of what or whom they are in charge. And most importantly, it includes setting clear, detailed expectations of the desired result. Many bigger projects will benefit from the inclusion of checkpoints along the way to ensure that whatever task or project has been assigned is on track.

It’s not more work… it’s more opportunity. Delegating authority and responsibility should be positioned as an opportunity for your team members. Do your best to ensure that team members see their greater responsibility that way, and not as you simply adding to their workload. Remind them that the collective success of the company is their success, too. And if you are giving them greater responsibility, they should be rewarded appropriately as well.

So if your to-do list looks long and your time looks short, consider delegating greater responsibility to those around you. Your team might surprise you!