Delegate, don’t Abdicate

By October 27, 2009blog

Part of the fun of being an entrepreneur for me is having a team who can help me move the needle and create great things. I’ve tried a lot of things over 15 years as it relates to delegating… and have had a lot of frustrating times with it too.

What’s helped me the most is realizing the difference between delegation and abdication. What stuff do I delegate the implementation of and what stuff I need to OWN the strategy, design, and decisions on? What I’ve discovered is ANYTHING that touches ALL customers needs to be OWNED by the leader/entrepreneur… not abdicated. For example:

  1. Mass automated emails to customers for signing up, order completion, ship confirmations, followup emails, broadcast emails and newsletters, etc.
  2. Messaging on the homepage and through the conversion process
  3. Prospect communications such as mailers, Adwords ads, etc.
  4. New product design, packaging, pricing, and marketing
  5. Support structures – such as how do we respond to, help, and WOW customers and in what modes
  6. Development project prioritization

Now that doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t help with this stuff… of course that’s what they are there for. But, it does mean that we don’t abdicate the strategy, design, and decisions. I believe a leader who OWNS everything that touches the customer creates a much more consistent/enjoyable experience for them and more successful company as a result.

A couple examples:

  1. Product Development project prioritization. I’ve seen companies let their IT team develop in an out-of-control fashion, hiring too many people, and not prioritizing in a way that makes a real difference in the customer experience and profitability of the company. It’s easy for a CEO who doesn’t know much about technology to abdicate that part of the business to a CTO. But again, if it touches all the customers, it’s the leader’s job to be in there making prioritization decisions for what will have the biggest impact and ROI for the company and it’s customers. If Steve Jobs can be intimately involved with the designing of Apple’s new products, than we can too.
  2. Search Engine Optimization strategies. I’ve seen entrepreneurs who know that SEO is the most important driver of revenue for the company, try to abdicate that to others and lose traction and revenues as a result. With RegOnline, I personally tapped into SEO expert groups to dig for where we could take our strategy to the next level.
  3. Customer Communications. It’s common for leaders to fully abdicate customer communications to their marketing teams. And the messaging starts to sound like its coming from “marketing” instead of real people who care about their customers. If Jeff Bezos can write his own letters to customers, then we can too. I know a owner of $40 million in revenue company who write ALL mass emails to customers.

A couple years ago when I realized the difference between delegating the implementation and delegating the decisions (abdicating), I started communicating differently with my team. I would say “I’m going to be fully involved with you in designing this and then I’d like you to carry through the implementation of it.”

What can we delegate more of and what can we abdicate less of to make our businesses more successful?

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