How to Escape the “Do-Everything-Yourself” Trap: Delegate

You have way too much on your plate, you’re juggling multiple roles, there’s never enough time to get everything done and there doesn’t seem to be a solution.

Well, actually, there is: delegation.

One of the best ways to develop your team and organization, delegation remains one of the most underutilized and underdeveloped management skills. (One time management study showed that 46% of 332 polled companies have a “somewhat high” or “high” level of concern about the delegation skills of their employees.)

So why do we avoid doing something that, in theory, should make our lives easier?

Several reasons: One, we’re perfectionists — we think no one can do it as well as we can. Two, we think it’s quicker to just do it ourselves — it’ll take too much time to explain – and we like to think we’re indispensable. Alternatively, we simply may not know what or how to delegate (it is a skill that must be learned, after all).

WHERE TO START

Whatever your excuse reason, the first step is to acknowledge that you will be hindering your company’s growth if you continue to try to do everything by yourself.

Next, you need to get an accurate picture of what you’re actually doing on a daily basis. Keeping a time diary for a week will reveal patterns in how you’re spending your time and which activities are outside your zone of genius (i.e. where you’re not leveraging your strengths or adding particular value).

WHAT TO DELEGATE

Now you can begin to consider which tasks to delegate. The ideal task for delegating can be broken down into multiple, track-able steps; has a set timeline or due date; and would be of benefit for someone else to learn.

WHY, THEN WHAT

What’s the difference between dumping and delegating? Context. When you create context — explain how the task fits into the big picture, why it’s important and what the person can learn – you create a sense of ownership and give them motivation about even the most tedious work.

Then, you can define and flesh out the project or assignment: Explain the basic steps, and set milestones and check-in points. Be clear in your expectations but leave room for them to think for themselves. One of the savviest bosses I ever had used to say: “I don’t need to tell you how to do your job” and then share his experience and how he would do it — his way of communicating trust and giving direction at the same time.

TEACH THEM TO FISH

At this point, you may be thinking it would easier to do it yourself after all! But if you truly want to develop your team’s capabilities and the long-term wellbeing of your company remember that giving a man a fish only feeds him for a day, while teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime.

When they have questions, strike a balance between offering guidance and letting them figure things out. Learn more about their thought process (and where you may be making assumptions about their understanding): “What do you think is the next step? What is your rationale?” Teach them how to think and ask the right questions and they may very well come up with better solutions than you would have. Jason Provenzano, founder of a $75 million vitamin and supplement manufacturing company, found that when he entrusts tasks to his employees and the end result isn’t always what he has imagined, he rarely minds: “I surrounded myself with such quality staff, most of the time they surprise me and get things done differently and better than I originally intended.”

So give your team room to experiment and make mistakes – emphasize the benefits of learning from experience. And ask them to hold you accountable: “Am I delegating as much as I could?”

As Charles Erwin Wilson, former US Secretary of Defense says: “A good boss makes his men realize they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could.”

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