Sage words by one legendary ad-man (guess who it was in the comments).
He was talking about clients who hire ad-firms and then micro-manage the process to the point where the client is essentially doing the work it hired the ad-firm to do. Not because the ad-firm wasn’t good at it or didn’t want to do it, but because the client just couldn’t surrender enough control to let the ad-guys do what they’re best at.
While this example speaks to the relationship between a business and it’s service-providers, it’s really getting at a much bigger issue that affects all of our lives, whether we’re in business or not.
The more we care, the more we suck at delegating…
It’s almost a sign that we’re invested in what we’re doing. We care so deeply about how a task or project comes to life that we have trouble letting anyone else do even a little sliver of the work needed make it happen. Because, we can’t deal with the possibility that they might not do it the way we wanted. Problem is, any time you hold onto every aspect of something…
You necessarily limit its growth to what you are physically, mentally and emotionally capable of sustaining.
If it’s a business, it grows faster in the beginning, but then caps off more quickly, because there are simply not enough hours in the day for you to do everything yourself. If you are happy where it’s capped off, so be it. But all too often, we both know, that’s not the case.
An inability to delegate is tantamount to death, but…
Even worse is a willingness to delegate responsibility without also delegating control. What does that mean? Holding someone or some company responsible for a result, without also allowing them both the freedom and the resources to do the job you’ve supposedly empowered them to do.
This is especially destructive when you’ve hired them with the express understanding that they have the expertise needed to get the job done…if you’d just let them.
An example would be hiring someone to paint your home, because you’re too busy and then standing over them, telling them what type of paint to buy, brushes to use, techniques to apply and ladders to raise every step of the way.
It comes down to trust…
Simple fact, growth is always limited by what we are personally capable of handling at any given time. To get past this limitation requires trust. We need to either find or cultivate amazing people, trust they will do what we ask, hold them responsible for delivering on their promises, empower them with the means and the freedom to get the job done…then step back and get out of their way!
The job might not be done exactly how we would’ve done it.
Sometimes better, sometimes worse. When it’s done better, our lives just got easier. And, we’ve discovered resources that allow us to grow beyond the limitations of our own time and energy.
When it’s done worse, and it sometimes will be, we need to evaluate, provide feedback and make any corrections needed. And, yes, that might mean trying out somebody else.
What it shouldn’t mean, though, is taking the task back and refusing to let anyone else run with it again.
Because, in letting someone try again or giving someone else the chance, we’ve created the opportunity for growth. But, in repudiating our willingness to delegate, we’ve just reinstituted a cap on what we most hoped to grow.
Is this an easy thing. Heck no. I am a control freak and I care desperately about the activities I endeavor to bring to life. But, I also know that if I tried to bring every one one of the visions that constantly spiral around my head to life by myself, it would not only kill most of them…it’d likely take me down too.
So, if, you’re like me, here’s my challenge. Start small.
Designate one task that’s fairly minor, but that you care strongly about. Then, assign it to someone else who you know has the chops to do it, hold them responsible, give them the freedom to do it their way and let them deliver.
Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.
Only one way to find out.
PS – did you figure out who said the quote that titled this column?
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