Sharing responsibility Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Scott D. Bade says learning to let go can be a big challenge of delegating, but it’s something you have to do if you want your company to succeed.

“You need to avoid the micromanaging,” says Bade, whose document management and workflow processing company employs about 50 people and has a three-year sales growth of 111 percent. “It doesn’t do much good to delegate and then to henpeck or be looking over people’s shoulders continuously. It’s not productive, and you really defeat the whole purpose of delegating. If you’re going to do it yourself, you might as well just have done it.”

Smart Business spoke with ImageSoft’s president and CEO about how to effectively delegate.

Q. How do you know which tasks to delegate?

You need to obviously establish roles for your key people, and then you need to be disciplined enough to give people tasks that fit in to their role.

Obviously, as an executive leader, you need to keep certain roles for yourself. Those are mainly oversight and strategic type roles.

Q. How do you monitor what you delegate?

It depends on the type of task you are talking about. We use electronic tools to track to-dos and things like that. If I give someone something, I’ll put it in a particular file to make sure that I circle back on it, if it is important enough.

The day-to-day stuff, you can’t necessarily track every little thing that you give people. So you make strategic decisions on what are the most important things you need to follow up on.

If you try to follow up more at a high level based on measurable goals, instead of following up just to say, ‘Yes or no. Did you do this?’ — the results are what should show. So, if you are setting the right kind of goals for staff, then that will show when you look at, for instance, sales numbers or customer satisfaction ratings, different types of things like that.

Q. How do you deal with a task that has not been done correctly?

Most of the time, if you are an executive and you are delegating, you are delegating to other management-level people. Generally, you don’t have to really baby-sit those people or, if you do, you’ve got a real problem. Most people at that level, just a simple reminder of your priorities or just a simple question — ‘Did you understand (the) priority of this?’ or, ‘Is this something that’s going to happen in a certain amount of time?’

Obviously, you treat management people with a little more latitude and a little more, maybe rope, if you will, than you do other types of employees.

I think that it’s important to have some structure. You don’t want to have too many levels. Obviously, that depends on the size of the organization, but everybody likes to keep a flat organization.

But you just absolutely need to have some structure and some reporting mechanism. Otherwise, you’ll never have a moment to think of strategic things during the day.

Q. What advice would you give another CEO on how to delegate more effectively?

Organization skills are critical. When I say organization, I’m talking about just keeping the things that you’re focused on organized — keeping your tasks organized and keeping your goals organized and written down, so you have some focus. Once you do that, then all the kind of subtasks begin to fall into categories and are a little easier to control.

As you get higher in the leadership, you need to have some tools in place to slow things down, as far as the speed at which information and distractions hit you.

Q. What kind of tools can you use to slow distractions down?

Set aside times during the day to do certain administrative tasks, and then try to shut those off. E-mail can be a big distraction if it’s not properly (managed). Just managing your inbox and your e-mail is an important thing to be on top of.

But, regularly scheduled meetings with different departments and different managers are important to have those touch points, so you know what is going on.

You absolutely have to take notes and write things down and store them in an organized way. I store my customer meeting notes and all of my business-related notes. I scan them, and I store them in an electronic system.

You need them in some organized place that’s probably getting backed up (so) that you can retrieve things quickly based on dates or people’s names or things like that.

If you look at just the information you accumulate in a single day, let alone a week or a month, it’s pretty overwhelming. If you’re not, on a regular basis, keeping that in an organized fashion, (then) all we have is our memory and our past experiences to help guide us in the future.

HOW TO REACH: ImageSoft Inc., (248) 948-8100 or www.imagesoftinc.com