We can find ourselves in a state of constant chaos, overwhelm and discouragement when we continue to try to do everything we can do ourselves. One of the common myths of delegation is that you just need to give it away altogether and hope that someone will figure it out and do it just as well as you would do it. Both aspects of this view of delegation will disappoint us! Delegation is not “delete” from our minds and schedules. Delegation is sharing the responsibility and specific actions related to a project that you still care about but no longer need to be the one leading. You also cannot expect to “just delegate” without investing time in communicating, training, testing and coaching the person who will be doing the work. While I know it takes both time and courage to delegate, when we practice delegating with strategy and intention, we can find a new rhythm that we never thought was possible! Join me this week for three actions to take that will move you further toward delegating so that you can move closer to regaining your rhythm.
Figure out what needs to be delegated.
Start by considering those items that you are really good at doing but do not enjoy doing right now. For instance, I have a lot of experience and previously really enjoyed doing evaluation work. While I can do it well and I know it is valuable work, I personally do not enjoy doing the work anymore. You likely have areas of your work that you are particularly proficient in doing and perhaps at one time you were really passionate about them too. If this has changed, (which is totally ok by the way) then this is an area to consider delegating. Remember, you do not have to give it up completely, but you do have to be willing to let go of control and time spent doing this all the time so that you are more free to spend time and energy on the activities you both enjoy and are good at doing right now.
As you pause to consider what needs to be delegated for you, you may also realize that some of the activities don’t need to be done anymore.If you are doing something just because it has always been done, now may be a good time to discontinue it. Or perhaps you are doing some tasks that could be done with automation.
Another scenario includes those areas that you or your coalition or organization have led for a long time but have decided this is no longer the best priority for your group. In this case, you may want to move beyond delegation to actually giving something to another group. For instance, I have two projects that I have led for many years that are not the best fit for me right now but they are a good fit for others. Rather than continuing to try to build a team and delegate to members of the team, I am considering who can be the team to actually lead this effort altogether so that I can focus on other work that I both enjoy doing and am good at doing.
Consider the right person(s) for delegation.
One of the biggest misconceptions about delegation is that you need to delegate to whoever you have on your team regardless of their skills, abilities or interests. This is when delegation goes wrong! For you and the other person(s) to be successful, the areas you delegate need to be a good fit for them as well. Even if they may not yet know how to do an activity or a task, if they are genuinely interested and have the overall skills to learn it, then they could be a good option for delegation.
As you assess your coalition team and your current priorities, determine the kinds of staff, leaders or other team members you need to recruit to participate with you. The things that you enjoy may not be what others enjoy and vice versa. We all have unique gifts, skills and interests and when we take the time to reflect and be strategic, we can delegate effectively. Spend time observing, asking and assessing the areas of interest, skill, strength and weakness among your team.
If you have a very small staff, consider hiring a contractor to help you with some of these activities. If you are connected with a university, consider potential students who may need practical experiences. Students can be particularly helpful when you have activities that you are really good at doing but do not enjoy. Since you are good at doing the activities, you can train them in how to do the activities.
When we delegate well, we have time to focus on our priorities and our areas of greatest interests and skills which can help us regain our rhythm and can help others grow and succeed as well!
Invest time in training and coaching.
I know that the idea of delegating can feel overwhelming because it takes time to train and coach. If you have strategically selected your “who” for a particular activity, you will need to spend time but it will not be as overwhelming as it would be if you selected someone who is not a good fit for that particular type of activity. Update your ideal week and block time on your calendar to prepare and spend time with the people you are delegating to for any particular project. While it may seem like you do not have the time, this is the type of investment that will gain more time for you in the future. You can say “no” to others for now (next week’s conversation) in order to provide the training and coaching needed to successfully delegate. One of my favorite leadership models is Situational LeadershipⓇ. Using this model, you can know when you are ready to delegate an activity to someone based on their readiness and ability to do the activity.
One of the reasons we struggle with delegating is that we move too quickly to delegating. When we have not spent time training, coaching and supporting someone enough to be ready for delegation, everyone can become frustrated and confused. Then, we try to “take back” the activity and stay overwhelmed. We must practice delegating. Before we delegate, we have to spend time training, coaching and supporting.
When we practice strategically and intentionally delegating, we are providing opportunities for others and we are creating more space, time and energy to focus on the areas where we both enjoy and are good at doing. Even if you have struggled with delegating in the past, I challenge you to choose one area to begin delegating over the next two weeks. Walk through these three steps and see how it can help you move toward rhythm again!
So what is one thing that you know is an excellent area to delegate right now?
If you would like more support in applying this practical action, check out my resource, Escape the Overwhelm Checklist!