If you’re new to the idea of building a team, you might feel confused as you gather advice and consider how to best delegate to someone new. And – let’s be honest here – you’re likely a bit overwhelmed by your workload and therefore finding it difficult to evaluate all the advice you see online.

I’d like to help clarify a few things for you with this post, because when building a team you’ll want to consider your approach carefully.

Most of what I see online boils down to two basic philosophies:

  • Delegating tasks – asking someone to step into your existing system and take over all (or part) of the workload so you don’t have to worry about it any longer. Asking her to build upon your existing structure to make it more efficient and more effective.
  • Delegating roles – asking someone to step into your business and take over a functional area, using his experience and skills (which are likely different than yours) to create and implement a system within your business.

Both approaches can allow your new team member to take ownership of her responsibilities and make his mark on your organization. Both approaches, when properly implemented, can provide room for creativity and for your new team member to use her experience effectively.

But there are some differences… and business coaches and systems experts often have differing opinions on which option is best. Personally, I believe the answer depends on your business, you management style, and your willingness to take risks.

Are you ready to put the responsibility of running key parts of your business on someone else’s shoulders?

Okay, I understand feeling overwhelmed and frustrated as your business grows. It can seem very appealing to “wash your hands” of customer service, for example, and allow someone with skill and experience to take this role completely out of your hands. But are you really ready for this step?

Consider the importance of clarity and consistency.

Some areas – like operations or customer service – require consistency and a clear understanding of your values and vision. Even the most experienced professional will need guidance and training from you in order to serve your customers in a way that feels on brand.

Other functional areas – those that aren’t customer facing, such as finances – might be easily handed over to a true professional who can have an immediate positive impact on your business.

Are you ready to communicate your vision and values clearly? Can you easily share the culture of your organization, the essential elements of your relationship with your clients, and the factors that differentiate you in the market?

Handing over the reigns to someone – no matter how experienced – before you can share key information clearly creates a confusing situation for your team member and a potentially inconsistent one for your customers.

Consider realistically the level of commitment you’re hiring.

Adding a team member is a big deal for your business, and it can seem like a major investment of time and treasure. But, it’s important to think about the situation realistically from the team member’s perspective. What level of commitment are you actually hiring?

If you are working with a contractor for a limited engagement, it’s unrealistic – in my opinion – to delegate ownership for an entire role to her. She is working with multiple clients, in most cases, and is simply looking to help you with tasks. She’s billing you that way, too – because creating an entire system and implementing it autonomously is very likely outside the scope of her fee structure.

However, if you’re adding a more permanent team member for a larger block of time things are a different. If you’re adding someone to your regular team at a full time (or close to it) level of commitment, then ownership and autonomy are a better fit.

Consider your management style – and get honest with yourself.

It takes courage to completely delegate an entire role to an expert. In order to give your new team member room to be creative and use his experience and skill effectively, you truly have to step away from the details. You have to manage outcomes – and you have to do it with a bit of distance.

  • Are you willing to let him make mistakes while he makes adjustments?
  • Are you okay with providing high level guidance and waiting for results?
  • Do you know which metrics you want to review so you have confidence?
  • If the worst happens – and he fails miserably – are you ready with a recovery plan?

If you can say yes to these questions, then you may be able to wait for results and manage from a bit of distance without stress and worry. But if you’re hesitating now, consider your level of anxiety going forward. It might be more than you’ve expected.

Be honest about your management style currently and the one you’d like to have in the future. Delegating a role completely means feeling comfortable in those CEO stilettos, and you may have a bit of professional growth to accomplish first before you can move forward.

Consider the risk vs. the reward.

It sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? Finding the right person and simply handing a functional area of your business over to her with minimal training and very little prep work. All you need is an experienced insert role (think marketing director, operations manager, customer experience guru) and your current problems are solved.

For some people this works quite well. Maybe someone in your family – or a close friend – has just the skill set you need. You already have a trusting relationship with this person, and you just know in your heart that you can count on her to care as much about your business as you do. No risk here, right? Just lots of reward.

But here’s the issue I see…

Very few people are ever going to be as dedicated to your success as you are. Even close friends or family members will occasionally want to leave your organization to join another. Washing your hands of key systems – simply handing over a list of outcomes and giving someone else full autonomy over creating systems – feels like a huge risk to me.

My recommendation is simple – create systems for your team.

Even if you are ideally looking to delegate an entire role – and create a full time position in your business – I recommend creating a high level systems. The benefits justify the time you invest.

Creating systems will:

  • Give your new team member a foundation for her creativity.
  • Ensure continuity for your customers and your organization as a whole.
  • Facilitate clear communication by giving everyone a common point of reference.
  • Reduce feelings of overwhelm or frustration for your new team member.

And of course, if you’re simply looking to get assistance on a part-time or project based level, clearly documented systems give your new team member everything he needs to be successful while helping you ensure the tasks you delegate are completed correctly.