While at my mother’s last week, preparing dinner for a family gathering, I learned something new about delegation. When my sister arrived while I was elbow deep in chicken, she asked if she could help. Everything seemed under control, so I told her I was fine. When she asked if I needed the cheese grated, I realized that I wasn’t nearly as good at delegating as I thought I was. This got me thinking about how I delegate – or don’t – at work, and the reasons that get in the way.
If I’m honest with myself, there were at least three reasons I declined my sister’s offer of help. I also have to admit that I don’t perform a personality transplant every time I switch gears from personal to work life. So for me there are at least three things that get in the way of delegating:
• I want the recognition. If I do the job, then I get the praise.
• I feel that I have this under control, so I don’t think I need any help. And if I dig deeper, what I really feel is that I want to do it my way.
• And since I want to do it my way, it takes too long to explain the process to someone else. It’s simply faster if I do it myself.
We all know that delegation is important for team members to feel a sense of pride in accomplishment, to learn, to have a sense of belonging, and to feel engaged in the activity of the team. Most of the time, as leaders, we’re conscious enough of the needs of our team members to assign them good responsibilities. But for those times when our autopilot tendencies kick in, here are some suggestions:
• Focus on the big picture. Wanting recognition or to do things our own way is just our egos getting in the way. If we remember our purpose, whether that’s a fun family dinner or a service to customers, it becomes easier to do what’s best for the team.
• If our concern about control relates to quality, then it’s important to clearly define the expected result and stay close enough to support our team member if needed.
• There are many ways to get to the same destination. A different approach to a task may even bring to light more effective ways of doing things. A skilled team member just needs an objective and some space to get there.
When I got back home this weekend, I resolved to be more conscious of how I delegate. So I asked my niece, who recently took a job in Toronto and moved in with us, if she could prepare dinner one night this week. She looked delighted to show off her skill, and now I’m looking forward to a whole new culinary experience.