Don’t Delegate Until You’ve Done It Ross Kimbarovsky | June 8th, 2011

Many startups fail because their leaders focus on doing things right, instead of doing the right things. They hire employees who can effectively execute tactics (do things right) but who have difficulty figuring out what needs to be done (doing the right things).

But how can you decide the right things that need to be done?

I believe that it’s important for entrepreneurs to get their hands dirty by doing certain jobs before hiring others to do those jobs. Getting your hands dirty not only gives you a better perspective on the work that must be done, but also empowers you to contribute when your team’s capacity is stretched – as it often is at a startup. This is true even if you’re hiring for technical positions but don’t know much about programming.

Moreover, most investors, and especially VCs, prefer to work with entrepreneurs who are not afraid to get their hands dirty.

I discuss these issues in the following short video. Do you agree?

Startup Tip – Get Your Hands Dirty from Ross Kimbarovsky on Vimeo.

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  • I agree 100%!  The employees who work below you won’t respect you if they think you can’t do it yourself.   Also, I have worked at places were the boss hires for design related positions…but doesn’t have a CLUE what to look for when hiring.  This creates animosity in the team when they hire someone who can’t do the job and everyone else has to pick up the slack.  

  • I couldn’t agree more.  How can you know what’s needed if you haven’t done it?  Also, because I’ve done the tasks I’m delegating, I’ve had some experience in many of the different possible outcomes that might result, so I can advise and prep delegates for those eventualities.  

    And, people know that I will never, ever, EVER ask them to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself…and they know that because they see me doing it right there with them.  And, when things are tough (as they can be in this economy), people know that they can vent to me and that I GET IT, because I’m in the same boat.  In an economy where tangible values and rewards can be small, the intangibles make all the difference. 

  • Yep. Ah agree.

  • Bryan

    Absolutely.  In a new enterprise, if we do not know first hand what needs to be done and how it needs to be done to generate the outcomes that are specific to our own enterprise, then we risk our employees/contractors simply turning our organisation into some reflection of the various other workplaces that they have experienced.

  • The same applies even to mature entreprises. Many are held back because managers and leaders are content with people doing things right – but that’s not a recipe for innovation or meaningful progress.

  • Good point about intangibles…very important.

  • Absolutely true. Do you think involving the team in the hiring decision(s) would help reduce the animosity?

  • 100% Agree!

    I see this happen all the time with the clients that we work with in that they think that a certain task or “simple” change should be executed quickly, easily and most importantly for them, cheaply!

    When I try to explain the amount of work involved in a seemingly “simple” task, their heads start to spin…

    The same holds for us as leaders and hiring other folks to come and join our team…we are less likely to put undue expectations on those individuals – and therefore increase accountability and responsiveness even more — when we have a first hand knowledge of the amount of work and effort it takes to complete a certain task.

    This also leads to a better working environment because praise comes much easier for someone that accomplished a task you KNOW is extremely difficult and time consuming vs. not ever really knowing what it’s like on the other side of the tracks.

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