How I Learned to Get Over Myself and Just Delegate
This is a guest post written by Andria Bicknell. Andria is a contributing writer and editor for Aspire. She writes about recovering from the effects of perfectionism on her own blog, Type A Plans B. Andria draws her leadership experience from ministry, business and home.
- Wes Saade, M.D.
Regardless of your personality type, if you are in leadership, you likely experience some level of angst when it comes to delegation. And if you are anything like me, you may require an intervention to turn loose of even the smallest details. Quite frankly, I’ve had to learn to get over myself.
A perfectionist by nature, I especially struggle with letting things go. It’s not that I think my way is the only way to get things done. Really. I just have this insatiable urge to make sure I am all up in the details—just in case something goes wrong. I want to predict it, problem-solve it, and more than anything else—prevent it.
Perfectionism doesn’t make you perfect.
It just makes you afraid of making mistakes. Ironically, not only can I not prevent others from making mistakes; I can’t prevent myself from making them either. Hording all the responsibilities and triple-checking every one else’s efforts doesn’t make me perfect, nor does it make me a better leader. It makes me exhausted, and a total micromanager. *Ugh* I hate being micromanaged. I certainly don’t want to do that to the talented people I work with.
On top of that, I am much more gracious with others when they make mistakes than I am with myself. I can beat myself up for days over something that I can forgive someone else for in minutes. So when I remove myself from some of the elements of our projects and delegate them to people who have more skills and experience: (1) I save myself a heap of anxiety, (2) I save our team valuable time, and (3) I empower others to shine.
So what did it take for me to get over myself and just delegate?
It took a gentle nudge (or two, or three) from my boss. Once he convinced me to delegate things I didn’t really want to release, I finally saw the beauty that comes in letting go. Case in point…
I have a new working relationship with Amy. We have taken the time to discover each other’s strengths, specifically through Strengths Finders 2.0 by Tom Rath. (Huge fan!) And we are openly experimenting with them in a variety of projects we work on together. She blows me away with how quickly she can get things done—and how accurate she is with the results! I admire this quality because though I thrive on achievement, I am entirely too slow to reach the finish line. I get so bogged down in weeds that she can quickly cut through.
Even with something as simple as an online search for book cover designers, she has saved me hours upon hours. I have no idea why it takes me so long to do something as simple as a Google search—except that the perfectionist in me doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned. But when I gave Amy a few simple criteria of what I was looking for, she quickly produced a list of 12-15 local designers for me to review. She tapped into a strength which I don’t have. She saved me hours, which freed me to do other work. And the list she produced completely maximized my efforts because she narrowed down the overwhelming results to a dozen of the most talented people in our area.
Warning: Delegation may become addictive.
The momentum that is produced from successful delegation is addictive. It’s a rush to do things together with others and be proud of what you have accomplished as a team. In our case, we continue to discover new ways we can work closely together.
All this time I thought it would be quicker to just do things myself than to take the time to show someone else. Turns out, I seriously needed to just get over myself and let some things go—and be okay regardless of the outcome. These are the steps I take to teach myself effective delegation.
1. Get over myself. Everyone else has. I just have to remember not to take myself so seriously. Really. Little things, like acknowledging my own imperfections, openly admitting when I get something wrong, and recognizing others’ strengths have gone a long way toward helping me conquer the grips of perfectionism.
2. Delegate. Literally, assign a (cherished) responsibility to someone else. Don’t overthink it; just do it. Give it away. No strings attached. No set of charts and checklists. Just release it already!
3. Offer my support. Not offer my instructions and “the way I would do it” guidance. Offering support is not a back-handed way to request a status update. A few days in, I just simply ask, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
4. Forget about it. Put it out of my mind, and go work on something else. If I am going to worry about it, I might as well have spent my time and energy actually doing it myself. But since I committed to delegate it, I am going to genuinely let it go and invest my time in the other work before me.
5. Be amazed. Give this person all the credit for their talent and dedication to get it done. Personally commend them for a job well done and praise them to others. After all, their hard work just freed up my time to get other things accomplished, made the rest of my job on this project easier, and made our entire team look like the rock stars that we are.
Delegation is an art I am learning to practice and appreciate. For more practical advice on how to delegate as a leader, I highly recommend Dr. Saade’s one-page worksheet, Delegate with Confidence, and his blog post describing the 10-80-10 formula for delegation.
Warm regards and happy delegating!
Contributing Writer, Aspire
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