Lean into your fears.

Explore a disconnect I had with an employee.  And what contributed to her anger, and then her shock.  And happiness.

I went for an off-site planning meeting with one of my remote employees.  We had a great deal to cover, and I was excited about the discussion.  However, early on in the meeting her disposition was increasingly and uncharacteristically quiet.  I grew progressively uncomfortable.  I wasn’t sure what I had done or said that caused the shift.

I wanted to ask her to take on the leadership of an important, visible, highly political project (she was already part of the team).  But now I was nervous about asking.  Was the timing, right?  What if she said no?  I wondered just what was going on.  But I was there, so I trudged forward in the discussion.

She was shocked at the request.  She was SURE, so sure that I was going to take her OFF the project.  She was even more sure that I was going to keep the ownership, the leadership, for myself.  Thus, her strange demeanor.  She was preparing herself for the worst.  For a disagreement.

I am thankful that the misalignment of expectations resulted in a great conversation.  It was a wonderful discussion of growth and her excitement over the change, challenge and the opportunity to contribute at a higher level.  She was beyond thrilled.

As I drove home, I pondered her perspective.  What had caused her to think that I would keep the project, or take her off of it?  Was I really that “greedy” about these types of projects?  Thinking that only I could do them, or feeling like I should?  Feeling guilty for engaging others?  Or wondering if they’d do as good of a job as me?

I do know at the time I worked night and day.  Weekends.  Tirelessly.  I was building my career; my reputation and I had a strong work ethic anyway.  I didn’t really consider delegation I suppose.  Until then.  I needed to change.

Because delegation is critical for two key reasons.  One is talent development.  Without new opportunities, stretch assignments, special projects—how will those around us really grow?  And mastery is engaging, autonomy is motivating.  We must provide it. Its our role and responsibility to do so.

And what of us as leaders?  How can we continue to add value strategically if we don’t let go?  Because I have not heard anyone say that things are being taken off their plate!

But, I know I know, I’ve heard it all before.  The reasons we can’t delegate:

  • It takes too much time!
  • What if they don’t do “it” right?
  • What if I have to redo “it”?
  • I don’t have anyone to delegate to!
  • I feel guilty, everyone is so busy!

We have to be cognizant of our thinking and understand that most are excuses or fears designed as reasons.

To delegate strategically and effectively, consider the following:

  1. Start with three responsibilities you could delegate. Not menial tasks, or things you don’t like to do, but areas that if you weren’t doing—you could use your time in more value-added areas.
  2. Consider your resources. This doesn’t necessarily have to be direct reports.  It could be peers (who want to grow), your boss, people outside your department (cross training).
  3. Align responsibilities to resources. Consider current capabilities of those you might delegate to, but more importantly growth potential from the delegated responsibility.  Even if don’t expect someone will be giddy with excitement (maybe they fear change or are at capacity); move forward to have the discussion.
  4. Create buy-in and commitment. This means engaging in a dialogue about the responsibilities, the expectations, plans and boundaries.

Make a commitment.  Heck, do it now.  (Or wait til your back at your desk!)  Four steps, 20 minutes.  Let’s go!  Download a free delegation action plan now:  Delegation-Action-Plan.pdf (