No Man-or Woman- Is an Island

We’re all guilty at some point in our lives of thinking we can do it on our own. If you have ever had to help a toddler get dressed, you’ve heard those words more than you’d like.

Unfortunately, some of us (guilty here) have a hard time getting out of the mindset that we can function autonomously.

John Donne originated the thought provoking phrase “No man is an island, entire of itself…”

While I love the islands and a great beach, being isolated on the island is lonely and can derail a new leader.

Simply put, no matter how good you are at what you do, it’s impossible to do it all alone. At some point you’ll need help. We all do—but many of us are bad at asking for and accepting help.

The Delegation Issue

In my informal analysis, there are a few issues that pop up when it comes to asking for help or support.

People struggle with letting go of responsibilities especially when they are newly promoted. They become micro-managers and control freaks. They may begin to hoard information and become afraid to share details.

Not delegating effectively often leads to feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

It’s time to be honest about whether or not failure to delegate is an issue for you.

The Benefits of Delegation

Delegating has really positive effects not only on the person letting tasks go, but the team they are working with. Delegating improves personal accountability, develop skills and knowledge, reduces stress, increases trust, and improves team work, productivity and efficiency. When you effectively delegate to your team, it creates involvement and boosts self-esteem and confidence.

So Why Aren’t You Delegating?

The following questions can be really helpful in identifying how much of an issue delegation is for you. Answer Yes or No as you evaluate how well you delegate.

  1. I am good at communicating my thoughts.
  2. I am good at delegating to team mates and colleagues.
  3. I explain project goals clearly.
  4. I consider the workload of the person I’m delegating to before assigning work.
  5. I schedule regular check-ins on the project and expect the person to hit them.
  6. If a task is a part of my performance goals, I prefer to work on it myself and not delegate it.
  7. I like to delegate tasks that will help someone else learn a new skill.
  8. I prefer not to delegate work that has a critical outcome.
  9. When I delegate a task, I wait for the other person to follow up with me.
  10. I assign projects at the last minute.
  11. I outline every step of the project before handing it off.
  12. I need to be aware of what’s happening at every step of the way when I delegate a task.

Be honest about your reasons why and figure out how to work around them.

Effective Leaders Need Delegation Mastery

A newly promoted manager who isn’t sure of what the daily responsibilities of the new job are, will default to what they know. They are used to doing things on their own and fail to let go of old tasks. They turn into control freaks and run into trust issues with their team. They think it’s just easier to do things instead of taking the time to teach their others.

If you fall into this category, it’s treatable.

The following are excerpts from my chapter of Insights on Productivity, a collaborative book project I participated in:

  • True delegation is about maintaining the appropriate balance between letting go and staying involved. In an environment that promotes true delegation, everyone is constantly learning new things and experiencing personal professional growth. Workplace challenges, and the responsibility and authority that accompany these challenges, flows down the chain of command smoothly and effectively. Everyone delegates work and receives delegated work. Everyone learns. Everyone grows.

  • Mastering delegation is easier said than done. You can read about it for years, talk about it for years…but you are only going to get good at it when you start doing it. Since delegating is counter-intuitive (it actually is easier to do things yourself and harder to teach someone else how to do something and delegate it in the beginning), it will not “come naturally” as they say. In the beginning you’ve got to force yourself to delegate and prepare yourself for the possible consequences of putting your fate in someone else’s hands. Learning to delegate is like learning a new dance routine, the more you practice it, the more fluid and natural it becomes. Don’t avoid learning to master something as important to your career as delegation because you might get roughed up a little bit when you are learning.

(Send me an email if you’d like to read the entire chapter)

Delegation Starters

  • Don’t delegate what you can eliminate. If it’s not important enough for you to do personally, it’s probably not important enough for someone else either.
  • Delegate the things you don’t want to delegate. Don’t hold onto everything.
  • Delegate but don’t give up ownership. Don’t just dump jobs onto others and then disappear…stay involved through updates and scheduled meetings.
  • Keep a Delegation Record. Track the things you have delegated to others and any notes you may have on the project

Just remember that delegation is a learned skill and it’s about what you can control, not what you can do.

If you (or someone you know) struggles with delegation, please reach out. It’s not impossible to learn

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