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When delegation goes wrong

Over the past several weeks, we have been diving into delegation and one of the biggest reasons that we try to do it all ourselves is because we have had experiences when delegation did not work. We tried to delegate and it did not go well so we gave it up and decided it would all work better if we did it by ourselves. If this happens enough times, we may just give up and decide that delegation is not for us. While I know it can be tempting and I have struggled with this same consideration, if we are going to be able to focus on work that we both enjoy and are good at doing, we have to work through what went wrong and try again. Join me this week for 3 practices to try when delegation goes wrong so that you can try again!

Admit it.

In order to make a change when delegating, you first have to realize the delegation did not go as planned. Although you may be thinking this or even grumbling about it with your closest family members, you may not have actually admitted it to both yourself and the team member(s) to whom you are delegating. By admitting that the delegation did not go as planned, you are opening up opportunities to understand why and what can be changed in the future. As part of admitting it, take time to consider what did not go right and some of the factors that may have been involved. When you are honest with yourself and your team, you have an opportunity to improve and try again.

Understand it.

Once you have admitted that things went wrong, you need to take time to understand why things went wrong. In every delegation situation, there are at least two people involved and at least two perspectives on what did or did not work. Spend time reflecting from your perspective, take notes and then ask the other person questions to try to understand the other person’s perspective. This applies one of my favorite Stephen Covey principles, Seek first to understand, then be understood.Ⓡ. While you have your perspective of what went wrong and potentially why it happened, when you open your mind to understand the other person, you are able to better understand the overall situation. The reason things went wrong may have been a lack of clear expectations or perhaps lack of competence in a particular task. You may also have other outside stressors impacting the situation that prevented the work from being done as expected. Take time to understand all the perspectives and consider what may need to be done differently to be successful next time.

Try again (differently).

Once we have spent time understanding, we can make a plan for what to do next. Sometimes this means delegating to a different person and other times this means doing things differently with the person you were working with previously. I recently began working with a new team member who seemed like a great fit; however, within the first week, she had some major things happen in her life and she was unable to do what she thought she could do. Although I initially wanted to try to make it work, I admitted that it was not going to work, and sought additional support in finding a new team member. I hated letting this person know that things were not going to work but when I did, she admitted that she also thought this was not a good fit during her current season. Since we both admitted the difficulty and tried to understand the situation, we were able to free one another to be successful by moving in a different direction. Since that time, I have engaged a new team member and am practicing delegating again. I learned some important lessons that I am applying to this new situation and am having success in delegating again! We do not always have the option of a new person, but we can consider new ways of engaging with the people on our team. If we have tried sending emails to provide clarity and this didn’t work, maybe we need to record short videos providing guidance. Other times, we may need to break things down into smaller steps in order to successfully delegate. Be willing to modify and adjust your approach in order to find success in delegating the next time. When it doesn’t work again, go back to the first practice – admit it, understand it and try again differently!

As you reflect on your recent delegation experiences, what do you want to do differently? Do you need to admit that some of the delegation hasn’t gone as expected? Or maybe it’s time to understand it better? Are you ready to apply what you have learned to try again?

As you reflect on these questions, if you would like more support in this area, check out my free masterclass recording, Escape the Overwhelm.

Photo by John Oswald on Unsplash

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