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A Lesson in Respect: What My Brother Taught Me About Delegating Work

By Kyle Danner

Before I passed off an assignment, my brother Eric would always say, "Think about the next person in line." It's a simple saying he stuck to every day, but it completely transformed my view of delegation.

Eric was responsible for operations in our family’s business. It’s one of my brother’s gifts: the ability to streamline a production process for efficiency. It wasn’t mine. I enjoy complex problems with lots of variables. Eric wanted to get from A to B in the shortest amount of time with the fewest steps. I enjoyed testing out new solutions and seeing how they panned out.

Of course, that difference between us led to some heated “discussions.” We’ll save that for another time.

But consider his comment, “Think about the next person in line,” because this comment could actually save you and your employees frustration further down the road.

The Risks of Delegating Work the Wrong Way

How frustrating is it when someone hands you a project and pieces are missing or instructions aren’t clear?

It aggravates you and makes your job more difficult. Then it becomes tempting to push off incomplete work to the next person in line. That causes them aggravation — the same aggravation the person before caused you.

This is just the surface of the potential problems caused by passing on your work without clear instructions. If you're constantly delegating challenging work to others but not explaining it, they may start to resent you. They might even feel used or unappreciated.

When Eric told me to think about others before I delegate work, his goal was efficiency in production. But, during the process, he also taught me an invaluable lesson in respect. It’s a small lesson with major implications, not just on efficiency but also on culture. And it can mean the difference between keeping your hardest-working employees and losing them.

How to Pass Off Work in a Respectful Way

You can't do everything on your own. There are only so many hours of the day, and some tasks are better off being passed to a more qualified team member. But you shouldn't delegate all of the work you don't like, and you should never delegate without giving the other person a clear idea of how to do the work well.

Taking the time to hand off work carefully and correctly shows that the other person matters. When work is handed off that way, it can save time, money and frustration. That leads to fewer mistakes, fewer headaches, less stress among the team, and happier customers. And happier customers means more business.

It also ensures that your team members are set up for success. They won't dread another assignment. Instead, they'll feel confident in their abilities and prepared to handle whatever you send their way.

If things are a little tense in the family business and people are butting heads, start by asking yourself: Am I thinking about the next person in line?

You may think so, but have you asked them if they have everything they need or if there's a better way to send them work? Their answers may surprise you.

Boost Morale. Keep Your Employees. Grow Your Business.

Family businesses benefit from long-tenured team members. That includes family and non-family alike. That’s great for stability but not so great for checking assumptions and encouraging needed change.

It’s also a way to hit the “reset” button without making a big deal. Sometimes all that’s needed is a small change, like thinking about the next person in line, to have a big impact.

One small but impactful change that has helped thousands of businesses improve their culture and team morale is the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS). This  set of simple concepts and practical tools helps family businesses:

  • Gain traction
  • Keep the right people in the right seats
  • Improve productivity & efficiency
  • And more

Change can be overwhelming, especially for your team. Schedule a 90-minute meeting, and let's talk about your goals for the business and how to set up your employees and your business for success.

Schedule A 90-Minute Meeting