In the last blog, I shared a story with you that still makes me squirm a bit. It seemed like every minute of every day was packed as full as I could possibly handle. From the time I walked in my office, usually around 6a, until I left for the evening around 6:30 or 7p, I ran as hard as I could and usually scarfed down some leftovers at my desk while catching up on voicemails or emails… It was nuts!
Clearing those time and attendance system exceptions weren’t necessarily my responsibility but addressing any given one of them was far faster than taking the time to fix what was essentially broken in the process. I’ll re-emphasize what I closed that last blog with: I didn’t discipline myself to invest enough time into fixing that process so I found myself losing exponentially more time each week patching it because I thought doing it right once would be more than I could handle. Ugh!!!
In that scenario, I didn’t have anyone else that I could pass any of the seemingly hundreds of daily tasks along to. But as most of us earn more and more leadership responsibility, we usually have a team around - you know, the ones we’re leading - that we could begin passing some things off to. As our teams grow, so does the demand for our time. In this case, however, we need to be very intentional about having the discipline to determine whether we need to do each given task ourselves or if we just need to make sure it gets done! The end result may be the same but how we get there may end up being VERY different.
This is quite a bit different from what we looked at in the last message, but the root cause is often quite similar! Most of us who have climbed the ranks in a company, moving from an individual contributor role into a spot where we’re overseeing the team of individual contributors we had been a part of, are pretty likely to be REALLY good at the technical side of the work we’re supervising. In a lot of cases, we may actually be far better (and faster) at getting the tasks done than most of the people on our team - and we may still produce a higher quality product in the process!
At any given time, we’re faced with situations where we feel like we need to just jump in and do whatever needs done so we can get the immediate results necessary and move on to the next fire that demands our attention. Much like taking a couple of minutes to fix those time and attendance exceptions was doing for me on a daily basis over that two year period, jumping in to get any of those tasks we’re now responsible for supervising knocked out quickly pulls us away from doing the things that only we can do.
Regardless of the type of organization we’re in, or what level we’re at in the organization, we need to develop the discipline to determine what can only be done by us and what could be delegated to someone else. Sure we may be able to do it a little faster or a little better, but when a team member can complete a task at least 80% as well as we could (and we have the ability to hand it off), it’s likely time to delegate!
Notice I’m saying delegate, not DUMP… There’s a huge difference but that’s a topic for another day.
All too often, leaders struggle with delegating even the tasks that could and should be done by others on their teams. This is especially common when that leader is truly a master of their craft; it can be really difficult to trust that anyone else will complete the task to meet their expectations. In those cases, that leader may spend as much time checking behind the team member who should be doing the task than it would have taken them to actually complete the task themselves. This can suck up a ton of their time and add a tremendous amount of stress to their job!
When we develop the discipline to delegate tasks effectively, not only do we begin to make better use of our own time but we also begin building that ever-so-important bench! Even then though, we have to set clear expectations regarding the process and quality then we need to hold our team members accountable for fulfilling those expectations. And it’s incredibly easy to be too busy to do that too, so we’ll take a look at how we can handle that in the next blog.
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