Ep89: Delegation Disaster

27 minutes

A simple holiday trip to Grandma’s house teaches us a lot about delegating and the balance between micromanaging and full autonomy in this episode.

Why is that important for business? 

 There are two traps at either end of managing people and delegating responsibility that can both be problematic:

1. Not making space for the story of them to evolve and micromanaging them, or;

2. Giving them full autonomy, perhaps before they are ready or developed for that responsibility.  

So how do navigate this fine line?

Often, a great first place to look are at the stakes of the project. Look for low and medium stakes issues to delegate – areas that you can leave room for some autonomy, and even some failure, because they can be repaired or fixed if a problem occurs.  Like in parenting, if you want your team to be able to handle disappointment or frustration, you have to let them be disappointed or frustrated. If you want to delegate, you must first let people have low stakes failures and allow them to develop. You have to let employees have space to learn by doing, but it doesn’t have to be a binary choice between micromanagement and hands off. 

The projects or tasks that you delegate should also help them appreciate the impact of mistakes and have an insight into the larger pictures. Mindless busy work can be delegated, but it doesn’t help them develop a sense of responsibility that tasks that are clearly tied to the next step will. 

Besides the stakes, you want to consider the impact of the project you want to delegate – who will a failure impact? If it’s important customers, that is something you want to observe more carefully.

 At some point, you also have to consider that well-delegated tasks are a good litmus test for assessing someone’s strengths and suitability. It is important as a manager to recognize what is important to the staff member, and recognize the skill sets they have and where they work well. They might not be suited for the tasks you want to delegate. 

The best way to move into delegation is to make sure people can change the sentiment of “you’re right” to the sentiment of “that’s right”. Pay attention to what part of delegation you get stuck on, and what part they can help you with from the other side. Notice what role the story you have of that person plays into your delegation experience. 

And lastly, if you delegate a lot, and it always fails, maybe the problem is you. 

 

Resource mentioned

  1. The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel, PhD https://www.wendymogel.com/books/item/the_blessing_of_a_skinned_knee
  2. The Price of Privilege, Madeline Levine, PhD https://madelinelevine.com/the-price-of-privilege/

 

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