I used to be bad at delegating. In college, I was always the leader of group projects. I wanted an A on every project and wouldn’t accept anything less. I couldn’t let the fate of my grade be decided by others who I deemed less competent or hard working. When things didn’t get done, I would do them myself. I lived the old saying, “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” I got my desired result (I graduated with perfect grades), but I came out of college somewhat distrusting of others’ ability to get things done in the workplace.
Fast forward to almost 6 years into my career as a technical writer. Freedom Cry, the non-profit I volunteer for, was starting to cast the vision for 2018 and it included creating a lot of project teams, one of which I would be the leader of. As I thought about this much-needed change to our organizational structure, I realized that I would have to face my lack of practice in delegating. Up until this point, I had done almost all the external writing and communication projects myself in addition to internal technical writing and record keeping. I would get projects requested of me and sit alone somewhere pounding on my computer until they were completed. This had to change.
I held my first team meeting and came prepared with a list of assignments. I asked my teammates for a refresher on their skills and how they wanted to contribute. I had heard that a good way to manage people is to tell them what is needed and give them the parameters of the project and the resources needed to complete it before setting them loose. That’s what I did. It worked really well. One of my team members even requested that I don’t demand updates constantly on the work she is doing and just let her get to a point in her project where she is ready to send me a really good first draft. I successfully resisted micro-managing.
I’m not the only one who has struggled with delegating. It’s a skill that requires practice, especially for certain personality types. Last month, I attended a presentation from Dr. Alan Patterson who has more than three decades of international consulting experience in change management, leadership development, and executive coaching and has worked with a lot of major household name companies. One of his comments really stuck with me. He said Achiever personality types (of which according to the CliftonStrength Finders test, I am one) really struggle with delegation because they focus on going deep technically within their profession and getting so good at the details that they don’t trust someone else to do the work. He said when these people are given managerial or leadership roles, they often struggle to take their hands off of the details of projects and invest in coaching others. I immediately thought of myself and the transition I’m slowly making to a more managerial type role within Freedom Cry and the excellent growing experience it has been for me.
Do you also struggle with delegation? What experiences can you give yourself to help you grow in this area?