Delegation is one of the best remedies to offload a tiresome task. There are many forms of delegation that we often forget is in our repertoire such as
• Finding a friend
• Negating the task
• Hiring someone
• Trading or barter
• Adding it onto a current employee’s role
• Automating it through a technology
These are all great as options. If you’re concerned about the investment, consider making a more conscious effort of asking for assistance from friends or colleagues. Rather than assuming you’re putting a burden on them, let go of you being the decision-maker of that and just ask. First, what you’re asking for may give them energy. A colleague of mine once asked me to put together an article for him on hiring people. I love writing and volunteered right away when he asked. Had he withheld from asking I might have missed the opportunity to contribute and do what I love. Second, the other person may know someone who has a unique ability to help. Remember that to grow, you have to leave your security and comfort behind and multiply yourself in creative ways.
Delegation isn’t a cost, it is giving you back the time and energy to create bigger and better results. But delegation (asking for and receiving help) is often far more complex of a process, especially when you’re depending on someone for something that matters. The helping process is highly complex system, hence the name I’ve given it “systemic delegation.” First, you define your needs and ask for help, and then the other has capacity to fulfill the request. The one needing help must define her needs well, and the other must be able to listen, despite the rigidity of their expertise, as to the best way to help. What can break down the process of giving and receiving are some deadly assumptions that play out and trump a successful end result.
Let’s explore these assumptions and how they bring inadvertent consequences to following through. You might think you’ve delegated beautifully, you’ve furnished the context of the task, walked the person through the process, established a payoff and a deadline, and communicated super clear. But….it starts off well, and loses it’s run to the finish line. Here are some belief systems at play in the execution process that compete with the commitment to go all the way. The end result leads to “reverse delegation” where the task lands back on the person whose delegating.
#1: Giving instructions too much insults the other person. The way this belief is resolved may involve withholding key instructions to keep the other person’s ego intact. Giving poor instructions like this can undermine the other by lacking clarity. Ambiguity leads to mistakes.
#2: Completing the task risks my value to the other person, I may look like a fool. The one completing the task is insecure about their capability and doesn’t want to look stupid. To avoid judgment day, the resolve is to not complete what is asked. The person using stalling tactics to make things perfect, which often inspires dread, doubts, and resentment in the one whose delegating.
#3: If I clean up the final draft, it’ll be done right. The leader delegating elects to be the final stop on the assemble line of completing the project. If the maid is coming tomorrow, the person leaves the dishes and house chores to be cleaned up. The leader as maid to clean up after the mess inspires the lazy behavior. Even though the leader should let the person sink or swim, the knowing the leader is the final touch, the consequences are taken away from the performance. Without facing any consequences, excellence has become unnecessary.
#4: I don’t want to major in minor tasks.The leader delegating believes what they’re delegating isn’t going to make or break the company or their income, so the tasks are considered less important. This then trickles down to the one completing the task. If it’s less important, why should there be a strong commitment to complete it?
#5: When I ask for feedback, it’s not important. The leader delegating delays in his responsiveness to the process check sought by the one completing the task. This is construed as she must not really care much. When the leader delays her response time, it inspires the other person to work on other things that matter more, often losing sight of what does really matter, and leading to costly mistakes.
#6: When they dictate the deadline, I lose control. Often times the one fulfilling the task has competing work commitments. Deadlines given are seen as intruders that infringe upon other priorities. Not coming through on the task is a way of sending the message back
#7: The more I get it right, the less there will be to do later. Here’s a control mechanism at play in the person’s thinking who is given the task. They operate under the assumption that once it’s finished what else is there to do? Why would one want to jeopardize their security? Keeping things in limbo is a convert way of maintaining a dependency to keep the person feeling safe.
Approaching the Cognition Piece
First, make a list of your own belief systems at play in your delegation process. Write down the transactions that took place in your most recent delegation process. Review blow by blow what motivated the trend. Write down the assumptions at play that positioned the way the end result occurred. Here are five suggestions to override poor thinking:
Consider any activity or task in your organization as marketing. Yes, marketing is the sum of every behavior in the business that become impactful customer experiences. No activity is minor. Even cleaning the bathroom is a marketing role.
Be mindful of your assumptions and keep an inventory in your journal as they arise. Ask your team to do the same and explore these during weekly tactical meetings. Acknowledge belief systems together and see how they play out in balancing or reinforcing patterns. Don’t look directly at what the other person is doing wrong, always look at the system at play. The system is making a bigger contribution to the consequences than any single decision or individual.
Instead of reprimanding poor performance, use these as signs of where to look for thinking that enacts the performance of the system. Challenge each belief by asking if it is true, what could be possible if it wasn’t and who you’d be, who they’d be if you didn’t belief in your assumptions at play. Remember that the driving force behind a belief or assumption is usually to prevent an unwanted situation from happening. Our mind’s attempts to predict the future rather than create one, gets in the way of our creative process to bring a design idea or task into fruition.
Copyright 2014 John Davidson