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Learn to Delegate

Avoid the “one-man band” syndrome by spreading responsibility around.

This column provides trainers with practical ways to approach common business obstacles using a coaching strategy called gap analysis. A gap analysis helps people identify where they are currently with regard to a situation, where they ultimately would like to see themselves, and what steps they must take in order to bridge the gap. Here’s how a gap analysis can help you improve your delegation skills to impact your business operations.

Starting Point: Leader of a One-Man Band

When it comes to the technical aspects of running a business, many trainers make the mistake of assuming they can and should be able to do everything on their own. In addition to their primary role as fitness professional, they also fill the roles of receptionist, administrative specialist, accountant, graphic designer, copy writer, marketing agency, Web designer, banker, office manager, human resource director, janitor and public relations specialist. While these responsibilities are sometimes initially taken on out of necessity, many trainers retain multiple roles because they believe they can accomplish business tasks faster, more easily and/or better themselves. They end up feeling overwhelmed by responsibility and stuck in a situation that stifles their potential for business development.

Destination: Leader of the Pack

When it comes to running and growing their business, those who delegate successfully have a number of traits in common:

  1. They recognize and accept that they are neither obliged nor equipped to single-handedly manage every aspect of running a business.
  2. They are able to focus on tasks that are specific to their talent set as well as delegate tasks to others, thereby creating additional time in their schedule for things they choose to do.
  3. Most important, they feel confident that the assistance provided by others will result in positive opportunities for business development and less stress for themselves.

Bridging the Gap

Transforming yourself from a trainer who takes responsibility for everything into a trainer who regularly and willingly delegates business responsibility to others is a two-step process. First, you must identify the specific methods that successful trainers utilize when it comes to delegating business tasks. Second, once you have identified those actions, you must formulate a strategy for developing your own skills in those areas.

Below are three areas in which successful trainers excel with regard to asking for and obtaining assistance with business operations and development. For each area, strategies are suggested to help you improve your skills so you can bridge the gap between trying to do it all yourself and delegating responsibility confidently and productively.

Area One: Recognizing the Need for Help

First and foremost, trainers who are successful at delegating business tasks recognize when they need assistance. Instead of wading through project after project, day after day, they realize it is in their best interests to seek out individuals or companies that can provide the help they need to accomplish certain tasks or business goals.

To improve your skills at recognizing the need for help, consider your current workload and responsibilities and identify areas or projects that cause you to feel stressed. If you hear yourself saying, “But, I don’t really feel stressed,” look to your body to see if that assessment is honest. Common physical signs of unhealthy stress levels include headaches, muscle/joint pains, mouth ulcers, stomach or bowel problems, muscle tics and skin problems like pimples/acne breakouts, eczema, psoriasis, hives or rashes.

Common psychological responses to stress include difficulty sleeping, irritability, tearfulness, angry outbursts, trouble remembering things, panic attacks, increased alcohol/drug consumption, overeating and loss of sex drive. If you regularly experience any of these things without a valid reason (such as a serious illness or the death of a loved one), you likely have high levels of stress. That is an indication that you need help and it is time to start delegating!

Area Two: Determining What to Delegate

One of the biggest obstacles people face when it comes to delegating is figuring out which tasks to keep and which to give to others. As people review their responsibilities, they often conclude that it would be easier if they just took care of business themselves because it would take too much time to explain to others how to do things correctly. However, this rationale is usually a cover-up for a deeper issue. People find it difficult to delegate because, in essence, delegation requires relinquishing a certain amount of perceived control over business operations. In actuality, delegation is simply giving other qualified people the authority to make decisions and the responsibility to see tasks through to their completion more effectively and efficiently than if you had tried to do everything yourself.

To help you determine what tasks to delegate, make a list of all the projects you are working on or for which you are responsible. Then go through the list line by line and choose tasks (you have to pick at least one!) you will ask others to help you accomplish. For example, if you are currently assuming responsibility for creating or updating your logo, marketing materials or website and you have no relevant background in graphic design, then place that task in the delegation pile. Similarly, if you struggle to maintain your accounts, then delegate responsibility for your bookkeeping to an accountant or virtual assistant.

Area Three: Delegating Successfully

To ensure that collaboration with others results in increased productivity and less stress for you, the key is to be strategic when it comes to delegating. Here are some tips to help ensure that your delegation efforts are successful and that they contribute to the ongoing development of your business:

  • Generate a Description of Tasks to Be Assigned. Other people cannot be expected to provide high-quality assistance if you do not have a clear idea of what the task(s) involves.
  • Create a Plan for the Desired Outcome. Before you ask for help, outline the steps involved in the assignment and the time frame in which each should be accomplished.
  • Ask the Right Person for Help. Just because someone offers or is available to help doesn’t mean that person has the skills necessary to actually do so. Seek assistance from people whose qualifications match the task.
  • Clearly Communicate the Results You Desire. Be specific about the outcomes you want and expect. Make sure the people helping know exactly what you need from them and when.
  • Hold People Accountable. If someone working on a project for you falls behind, don’t just give up and take the reins again. Review your timelines and expectations with that person to get the project back on track, or assign the task to someone more suitable.
  • Follow Through and Check In Regularly. Part of delegating successfully means establishing and maintaining direct lines of communication with those assisting you.

Learning to delegate successfully is an important aspect of your development as a businessperson. It reduces your workload, gives others the opportunity to develop their skills and is absolutely necessary for continued business success.

Straight From the Top

Even the best trainers in the world have faced the common business obstacle of delegating successfully. Here’s how Carla Sottovia, PhD, 2005 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and director of personal training at The Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, successfully bridged the delegation gap: “As a full-time fitness trainer who is also responsible for management duties, it is imperative for me to seek help when needed. When trying to determine what tasks to keep and what to give away to others, my rule of thumb is “How can I maximize my work efficiency?” Since I oversee several ongoing projects, I list all the steps needed to complete each project and determine which tasks need my attention most. I then delegate remaining tasks to other staff members who have demonstrated an interest in learning and developing new skills. I make sure to provide them with the appropriate training to succeed and recognize their efforts and hard work.”


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Mary Bratcher, MA

Mary Bratcher, MA, is a certified life coach and co-owner of The BioMechanics in San Diego, California. She holds a master's degree in psychology; and for over a decade, has used principles from psychology and life coaching to help people develop better strategies for dealing with life's demands.
CEC provider for: ACE

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