Too Many Projects Have You Frozen in Your Tracks?

By David Scott Peters

Take a moment and look at your to-do list. Do you see a list that seems to be growing instead of getting smaller? Do you have more than half your list marked as “A-1 Priority” projects? If you actually got some of those projects completed, would your restaurant run smoother? Would you have happier, better-trained employees? And/or would you make more money?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, what the heck are you waiting for?

I’ll tell you what you’re waiting for: A freakin’ miracle! You know the one… it’s where Tinker Bell arrives, lands on your shoulder, sprinkles her pixie dust and, magically, all of your projects and tasks get completed. Right? (At least that’s how I picture my miracle arriving.)

The reality is that as your list of uncompleted tasks keeps growing, your restaurant suffers and your stress level explodes to a point where instead of getting things done, you freeze and grab hold of your daily routine, praying that if you just keep moving the business will be OK. (I want to thank Dan Korem, husband of an Elite Member, for an enlightening late-night discussion where he shared a study that provided the data proving this point.)

Getting things done

The key to getting things done is to delegate!

What does it mean to delegate? According to Merriam Webster, the official definition is, “to entrust to another or to assign responsibility or authority.” In other words, use your business’ resources, people and their time to get your stuff done.

That sounds easy, but how many times have you heard someone tell you to just simply delegate? How many times have you found yourself able to take that advice?

If only it were that easy, right?

Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, talks about how most small business owners make a critical mistake when they delegate. He talks about how they often “delegate through abdication,” and this doesn’t work.

“Delegation through abdication” is where you have a problem, a major project, a critical task that needs to be done and you hand it off to someone else to do without giving them sufficient direction. You simply hope they will fix it, and that they will know exactly what you want done and how to do it successfully. Without providing specifics and expectations, you’ve just set the person to whom you’ve assigned the task on a path to failure. And when they fail, which they inevitably will since they can’t read your mind, you revert back to the mindset, “If I want something done right, I simply have to do it myself.”

How’s that strategy working for you? Remember that to-do list?

The keys to delegating

If you want to delegate successfully, all you have to do is follow these five simple steps:

  • Be specific and clear. Explain what you want accomplished, the steps you want the assigned person to take and then ensure they understand. For example, don’t just say, “I want you to do these recipe costing cards.” Instead, teach the step-by-step process to completing a recipe card — from writing in the recipe to converting the ingredients used from pounds to ounces, etc. — and show them how to complete one. Then watch them complete one and have them explain exactly what you have asked them to do. You need to make sure they get it. Understand when you assign a task to most people, they will answer, “yes,” when you ask them if they understand a task that has been assigned, even if they don’t. NOTE: You can NEVER be too specific!
  • Define success. When you delegate a task or project, you need to let the person you have delegated to know what success looks like. Take the time to let them know why this task is important, what successful completion looks like and why it’s important.

For example, “The task of completing recipe costing cards is imperative to our restaurant’s success. Costs have been rising and we need to see what items need to be dropped, any opportunities where we can raise prices, reduce costs, or reduce portion sizes to recapture the profits we’re losing, without negatively affecting our guests. And these recipe costing cards are the key to doing that and allow us to use the Menu Profit Generator Software to find those opportunities. You’ll have performed this task successfully when, 1) all of the batch and item recipes have been costed out, 2) proper yield tests have been performed and 3) all current ingredients have been converted to unit costs and input into the recipe costing card worksheet.”

That’s clearly defining success.

  • Let it go. If you were specific, clear and took the time to explain what completing the task or project successfully looks like, don’t micromanage! It’s OK to check in from time to time to see how the project is coming along. It’s OK to check progress. It’s OK to spot-check work. But it’s not OK to micromanage. You don’t want to be over shoulders every step of the way. They won’t want to give you their full effort for fear that it’s never good enough. You have to let whomever you delegated to follow his or her own path to completion. They might take an extra step or two to get it done, but that’s how they learn. If you know the quickest path to completion is from point A to point B, and they divert to C, D and E on the way, well, if it doesn’t hurt the company, let them find their way. That’s how you learned the shortest path in the first place. But when they learn from doing, it’s more likely to stick. Please note that if they’re going to do harm to themselves or the business along the way, that’s when it’s time for you to step in.
  • Continue communication. When you check in on progress, this is your opportunity to give that person positive or corrective feedback. Remember, just because you showed them once how to do the task, that doesn’t mean they’ll keep it in memory the next day or a week from then. They have to practice it correctly to do it correctly. In a nutshell, continued communication equals ongoing training, and that pays off in dividends. Just remember to be patient. They’re learning and may not master the task at hand for some time.
  • Recognize and reward. When you follow the steps above, you’re almost guaranteed to not only get the task at hand done, but also start developing someone you can count on. You’ll be able to delegate more and eventually hand over tasks knowing — and trusting — they’ll get done correctly. Reward someone doing things right with a simple thank you, pat on the back, movie tickets, dinner out, money, etc. Show that you appreciate the hard work and keep them interested in doing more.

Doesn’t that all sound so easy? Even I find myself telling people how easy it is to effectively delegate, but the truth is it’s easy to hand over tasks and pray they get done right. It takes real time and commitment to delegate effectively. If you’re tired of feeling overwhelmed, frozen in your tracks or have too many projects on your plate and really want to get things done, follow this recipe for delegation success and start reaping the rewards today!

David Scott Peters TheRestaurantExpert (1)David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at


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