How to delegate

Richard Branson speaking into a hand-held microphone
mage from Matthias Rueby
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 9 May 2019

I often talk about the importance of delegating when it comes to expanding and diversifying your business. It’s also a crucial leadership skill and it allows you to find better work-life balance. Recently, a 19-year-old entrepreneur reached out to me and asked for more detailed advice on delegation as his start-up was really starting to evolve.

As I read his story, I was reminded of the growing pains we felt in the early days of Virgin. The simple truth is we could never have evolved from a mail-order record retailer to a global brand embracing over 60 companies if I hadn’t learnt how to delegate early on.

A black and white image of a young Richard Branson in a sitting in a recording studio
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With that in mind, I decided to write up a five-step delegation guide that I’ve followed over the years. Hopefully you find it insightful too.

A Virgin’s guide to delegation:

1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Reflect on the tasks that come naturally to you. What elements of the business do you find enjoyable and stress-free? What do you find demanding and time-consuming? Ask your friends, family and peers for their honest observations too. Once you’ve collected your thoughts and findings, write them down and take note of any patterns and themes.

2. Do the same for your business as a whole to identify any areas where improvement is needed as well as any existing challenges and missing elements that you need to attain for your business to scale. This will determine the kind of skillsets, assets, experience levels and personal attributes that your business and team is lacking.

3. Use your findings to guide recruitment and evaluate your existing team. You need to build a dynamic and diverse team if you are going to be able to delegate and succeed. Seek out characteristics in people that balance out your less effective areas. Take the time to find people who understand the business and can envision ways to improve it without losing sight of your vision.

4. Shift the hierarchy and establish a company culture where every idea is welcome, communication is open and collaboration is embedded in every decision. It’s important to remember that people are your greatest asset and you need to invest in them.

5. Now that you have established a loyal and trustful team with talent in the right places, you can sit back and start looking at the big picture. Nevertheless, it’s important to remain visible, approachable and connected to all of the moving parts of the business.

Richard Branson chatting over a hot drink with two others
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Delegation is a balancing act but when you get it right, that’s when growth happens. I hope these steps help you get there.