One of the most challenging transitions you’ll make as a leader in a youth activity center is the move from the “roll up your sleeves and get ‘er done” mentality to empowering people around you to get their hands a little dirty, too.
In the early days of starting and growing your business, it made sense to wear all the hats (and btw, I think you rocked them) but as your gym, dance studio or swim school grows your responsibilities inevitably become more complex and the difference between an effective leader and a team member with a leader’s title become painfully clear.
Over the years, Jackrabbit Class has worked with owners, managers, and operators of over 12,000 schools and we’ve learned what start-up mode looks like and what moving toward real delegation and a sustainable growth mindset can do for you, your teams and your students.
Benefits of Delegation in a Youth Activity Program
Finding the delegation sweet spot at your facility can help you – and your business – in a ton of important and impactful ways.
You can find dedicated time to focus
Acting as both a leader and team member will leave you feeling overwhelmed by growing to-do lists, requests and details of class and staff management. Before you know it, making sure the lights stay on in your building will feel like a burden. When you take the pressure of completing all the day-to-day tasks yourself, you’ll empower yourself to be laser-focused on growing your business and inspiring your students and staff.
You’ll have time for your next great idea
Here’s the painfully honest truth about doing it all yourself. Business-changing a-ha moments don’t come from being elbow-deep in the nitty-gritty of business operations; they hit you when you give yourself permission to step away from your center and take a clarity break. Taking a minute (or twenty) away from your gym, studio or swim school allows you to see the bigger picture and, more importantly, the potential you could unlock if you gave yourself some time back to dream big.
Some of you reading this are feeling better after reading this one…sitting in your office, reading this blog and taking a few minutes to think big. *Ah, the good life.* Not so fast. When I tell you to take a break, I’m asking you to literally step out of your office, out the front door of the school and get way on down the road. Creating physical distance from your program will help you gain much-needed perspective. The space and distance you’ve created, just by taking time away from your facility, allows for your next big idea to take shape.
You’ll become a better leader, coach and mentor
Let’s get real. Most owners and managers I talk to will tell me that they already delegate a ton, but when I talk to their instructors, coaches and administrators they’ll tell me that their bosses are total micromanagers who need to trust them to do their jobs.
The disagreement on what the definition of delegation is actually a big reason that this breakdown exists. Owners and directors see delegation as a simple choice – to do it all or to throw their hands up and let their administrators take over. When you frame it like that, it’s easy to see why an owner, who has poured their all into their business would feel like delegation is another way to say ‘lose control.’ And here is exactly where this vicious circle starts – directors and administrators push for more authority and creative space and their owners panic and hold on even tighter.
Breaking this pattern begins when you step away and redefine delegation for your organization. It isn’t about losing control or walking away from your program, scouts honor. What I’m suggesting is just the opposite of that. Delegation is about recognizing the success you had in hiring smart and capable people and then, enabling them to contribute to the success you’ve already built.
How to Delegate within your Gym, Dance Studio or Swim School
Now that I’ve done the hard part of convincing you that delegating won’t ruin all the work you’ve done, it’s time to put together a plan to start the process. Putting a process in place to make sure that the right tasks are assigned to the right people, and that you keep a hold on to the ones that make your day more joyful, will help you prevent business burnout and stagnation.
Here are three tips to get you started:
1. Let it go, let it go….
If we’re on the same page at this point, we’ve agreed that one of the toughest problems you’re facing is the inability to decide what is yours to keep and what you could and should be empowering someone else to do.
If you’re serious about delegation, your first priority should be to write down all of the tasks you complete on a short-term and long-term basis and compare them with your current team resources. Identify who on your squad is capable and passionate about each project.
Once you’ve got tasks matched with each person, you might find your seats or titles need adjusting and that’s okay! In fact, it is the best outcome for this exercise. Imagine, you’ve done the work and not only can you delegate but you can elevate your team at the same time!
2. Set deadlines and priorities
Make sure your team knows what you are working toward. Each contributor should be familiar with their own goals but also, the goals and tasks of their teammates. As a great leader, and a new delegator, you should paint a good picture of where you’re starting and what done looks like but then, and here’s the tricky part, get out of the way and let them decide how they’re going to get the job done without you.
3. Be available to listen, learn and advise
Ahhhhh, the mornings sitting at Starbucks, dreaming of the big picture. The days spent with your entrepreneurs group writing up a strategy for growth… HEY! Snap out of it! Not so fast there, you master delegator. That’s end-game stuff, friend. You’ll get there, but not on day one.
You are a leader but in the beginning you are still an integral part of the team. Make sure your directors, admins and instructors know that and are able to find you easily when they’ve got questions, concerns or roadblocks. You have to learn to crawl before you walk, right?
Leaders Who Have the Ability to Delegate Share These Common Traits
1. They are fair and can measure results
Owners and directors who can delegate effectively in their gyms, dance studios or swim schools can easily identify the right performance metrics for their teams and hold staff accountable to them. You’ll be able to do this because you’ll finally have the time to collect the data, look at the story your numbers are telling you and distribute that information with action plans to correct or continue the growth.
2. They foster open, honest and candid conversation
Great leaders have high expectations because they’ve hired intelligent and capable employees. What they are also fantastic at is staying open minded and considering new approaches to problems that arise. Just as you trust your team to execute on their tasks, they should also trust that they can come to you when roadblocks or issues come up. No matter how empowered your team is, you are still their leader, mentor and advisor. If they stop asking you altogether what you think or how you’d solve new problems, start worrying.
3. They invest in the right solutions and make sure their team has great resources
The most effective leaders offer their teams robust and powerful tools to manage their classes, staff and parent relations. It would be unfair of you to expect your team to have innovative solutions to increasing enrollment, improving retention and expanding in your community if they don’t have access to the tools and technology they need to make an impact.
4. They show investment and intrigue in their team’s task list
Am I repeating myself yet? I know, we’ve covered this before but, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen owners and managers say “Look ma’, no hands!” There is a huge difference between an off-site owner and a great delegator. Read that again. There’s nothing wrong with being off-site and letting someone else run the show but, that definitely doesn’t mean you are an excellent delegator.
Great delegators still show up and show their team that they value the work they’re doing. There are things about your program you will always be passionate about and even when you delegate, you’ll want to inspire change and progress there. That’s not something anyone would want you to let go of.
5. They recognize and celebrate the wins – big or small
If you see something, say something. Reward exceptional work when you notice it happening. Delegating should give you more chances to be on the lookout for coaches, instructors and admins who are providing great customer service, mentoring or solving problems in creative ways.
Think you’re ready to get a handle on this delegation thing? Park your expectations and privilege at the door. It takes courage, strategic thinking and a little humility to delegate in ways that will drive productivity, engagement and success in your facility.
Regardless of the risks you might be taking, delegation is a sure-fire way to free you up to be the leader you always dreamed you could be and to watch for future leaders in the making. Delegation isn’t always easy and it doesn’t come with clear-cut instructions but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find a cadence that works for your team, your business and you.
Need a few more tips on getting some time back for you? Download our latest eBook now.