Delegation dilemma: When your name is on the sign, how involved should you be?

We recently held our summer staff party and I showed up to the event not having a clue what we’d planned for the day, but knew it was going to be great. And it was. It’s one of many projects and responsibilities on the farm that I’ve learned to delegate over the years. 

Delegation is a skill that great leaders practice consistently. The inability to delegate is actually one of the biggest weaknesses I see among other producers. I, too, still have some work to do in this area (more on that later) but I know that trusting my people is one of the best things I can do for the business.

Maximizing efficiency

It’s about maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of everyone involved in the operation. While I bring the vision and the “big picture” goals of where we want to go, I depend on Evan and Jeff to design the strategy that will get us there. 

When executed properly, there are multiple layers of delegation. When you hire great people with certain skill sets, it becomes easy to figure out who is best at doing certain tasks.

I asked Jeff to organize the summer party – he took the lead and delegated his team to make it a reality.  I am sure Jeff would tell you,  “Just ask Mariah any questions if you have any!” (haha). Judging by these pictures, you can see they did a terrific job.

It was a great day to hit the golf course and the kids had fun too.


Employee development

You’ve heard me say this before…if something happened to me tomorrow, I know the farm would still run smoothly. It is dangerous when operations rely solely on the owner, founder or CEO. Additionally, how do you expect to keep good people if you are not challenging and developing them? Employees feel more engaged and motivated when entrusted with responsibilities that align with their skills and interests.

I’ve found that many of our team members have an interest in other areas of the business so when we see that desire (it’s one of the discussion points during annual reviews), we try to act on it by giving them more or different responsibilities. Launching our Deep Roots Foundation is a great example. One of our staff members has a passion for philanthropic work, so she was a natural choice to lead the Foundation work.

Spreading responsibilities throughout the organization also helps to prevent burnout at the top and ensure everyone has a better work-life balance. As the leader, you should be able to step away from the business for vacations, kids activities and hobbies – golf anyone?

Better decision making 

For a business to run smoothly, there needs to be effective and swift decision-making. I don’t like being the bottle-neck, and that’s where delegation can help.

If leaders get bogged down with too many tasks and decisions, nothing gets done and there can be missed opportunities. Launching Farmer Coach is a good example of this. We knew we wanted to start a farm business management program, but Evan Shout took the reins on this and has built (with his team) a successful program that we’re both really proud of. 

When it comes to our day-to-day operations, both on the farm and in the consulting business, there’s no way I could be involved in the many (important) decisions that must be made. I can relax at the end of the day knowing that my team has it under control. And, if they don’t, that’s ok too. We know people are going to make mistakes – that’s human nature.

I think it’s really important to acknowledge those mistakes and make efforts to minimize them, but we cant’ be so afraid of them that we’re holding on too tight, suffocating the life out of the business.

Collaborative environment

Having multiple people involved in various aspects of the business also helps to foster a collaborative environment. When team members feel trusted and empowered, they are more likely to share ideas and support one another. This boosts creativity and better problem-solving skills for the entire team and overall performance.

When delegation becomes hard

It’s true, when it’s your business it can be hard to let go. It’s one of the biggest problems we see among our consulting clients and, honestly, it’s something I still struggle with on the farm, especially when it comes to seeding.

Some may question my decision to be on the air drill for 16-20 days straight, but seeding is THE most important thing we do on the farm. If we screw it up, the other 350 days don’t matter. I feel it’s important to be out there with the team. They know that I’m there when it really matters. And, if seeding and harvest go well, that gives me physical and emotional freedom to be more hands-off the rest of the year.

During the other months of the year, I can focus on long-term strategy and opportunities, travel to meet with other business owners, government officials, and CEOs, take on speaking engagements, panel discussions and media opportunities. Those conversations are extremely important to our business and the future of agriculture. For now, I’ve decided these are priority items and I won’t delegate them to others.

Most of my tasks these days involve playing the long game – the decisions I’m making have a 12-18 month timeline. Sometimes that can be frustrating, but that comes with being the leader.

If you are reading this and struggling with the idea of “letting go,” let me tell you, it might just be the best thing you do for your business. Getting out of the day-to-day of your business will allow you to dream big, see things in a different light, and take time to network and have conversations with other business leaders. Don’t underestimate the benefits you can get just by sharing and talking with others. Most importantly, delegating can help you enjoy the benefits of farm life – family, community and your hard-earned success.