The delegation of leadership and control is something I get asked about often. There are a lot of “flat” companies out there; by this I mean there is only one layer of management, you have the employees and then you have the top boss immediately above them. This is perfectly fine, most small businesses are run this way and weaving in another layer of management would be both time and cost inefficient.
But what happens if that management figure has to take an extended leave, for illness or some other reason? A surprising amount of businesses do not have a contingency plan in place in case this should arise. It is human nature to have the “it won’t happen to me” mind-set; you might own your own business and think small business owners do probably get sick or injured or similar, but not you, so why worry about it?
Worry: to think about problems or unpleasant things that might happen in a way that makes you feel unhappy and frightened.
My answer is don’t worry about it, we have enough to worry about in life without hypotheticals, but that’s not to say you should just dismiss it. As defined above, worrying involves the unpleasant thought about problems. By having a contingency plan already in place, then should something happen, you have no need to worry about it.
In your business you should know whom you can trust, or feel is responsible enough for a leadership role; if you can’t think of anyone then you need to take a look at your recruitment policy. Continuing, simply ask that employee for a meeting and relay to them that if you were out of the office for any extended period of time then you would like them to take charge in your absence. Note here that for best results you shouldn’t force this role upon someone who does not wish to fulfil it, however if they are unsure whether they are capable or not you should do your best to reassure them that you believe in them.
If they accept the role then brilliant, you have the first part of your contingency plan in place. The next part is to provide some training for said employee so they know what is expected of them should they have to step into that role. In this day and age there is now an absolute myriad of resources available, from management DVDs to online courses, in house coaching sessions to full on programs.
If you have the time and resources, complete the training yourself as well, this well help to show your team that you are serious about the benefits it will bring to the company. Once your staff have completed any training you provide, ask them for feedback in order to help you evaluate not only the training, but the readiness of your staff in case of an emergency leadership delegation. After that have a refresher course or catch-up meeting once a year to ensure that everything is as it should be.
It may be that you never have to put your leadership contingency plan into action, but if you do need one and haven’t got one in place then the repercussions on your business could be disastrous. I highly recommend taking the time to strategise and implement a delegation protocol; if you’ve worked this hard to grow your business to where it is, why throw it all away?
About the Author
Jamie is an experienced communications and management analyst and writes for Tools4Trainers to help those in search of understanding in the field.