Courage to delegate
He knew the harness was around him. He knew they wouldn’t let him fall to his death. But yet his whole body was pumping the stress hormone Cortisol around his body like there was no tomorrow. His knees buckling beneath him and his shaking legs wobbling in dissonance with the slight wobble of the platform beneath him. “You just need to reach out to the trapeze handle and jump” were the words he heard. But there was no ‘just’ about it. Letting go of the platform he was on, that at least felt slightly secure, to go into mid-air for a trapeze handle that may or may not hold my weight, was a leap that seemed too far. “You’ll be so proud if you do this,” said the high ropes instructor. He was, of course, right. He would be proud. This was the trigger he needed. He bent his legs and with one push leapt into the air.
It’s the letting go that takes the courage. Letting go of what seems secure to something slightly unknown is the step of courage. If you’re not a fan of heights, like myself, then my recount of the high ropes leap of faith no doubt evoked your own wobbling knees. When leading others, the art of delegation can often feel like the wobbly knee experience of the high ropes. It feels secure doing it by yourself, safe, you know where you stand. But delegating it to others can feel unknown. What if they don’t do it as well as me? What if it goes wrong? It is then that we need courage to delegate. But what helps us have courage to delegate? What can we do to help us take the leap of faith?
Consider the what-ifs
The tendency can be to consider negatives ‘what ifs’:
What if it isn’t done as well?
What if they don’t get it done on time?
If we want to have courage to delegate, then maybe it is about turning those around:
What if it could be done better?
What if they get it done before time?
It is also about considering the benefit beyond the current piece of work:
What if this could help develop the knowledge, experience and confidence of someone?
What if this could free up my time to focus on the key elements of my job?
What if this could help develop the leadership capacity of others?
What if this could help us with succession planning?
What if this could develop my leadership?
Now the delegation has a reason of more weight for it than against it. Reason for delegation becomes greater than the reason not to.
Clarity creates courage
One of the biggest failures in delegation comes from a lack of clarity. When people are clear on what they need to do, when they need to do it by, what their authority is and what the reporting and checking points are, then it has a chance of success. This also enables you to have courage to take the step of delegation, because it allows you to plan timings for space to check. It allows you to get clear on the outcome you want and paint that picture, so others share the view. Courage to delegate is a big step but planning the following things can help you step into the vulnerability you feel when delegating.
Be clear on the outcomes you want
Create buffer space on deadlines so that you have time to check and ensure they have time to follow up any developments needed
Get to know people so that you know & trust they can do it
Delegate to those who have the skills/suits them
Delegate to those who have the time capacity
Be clear on the type of authority eg either a) You do & report, b) You report and do
Now all of these things can help reduce the gap of the jump. They move the trapeze slightly closer to help you take the step of delegation. But one thing remains, you need to have the courage to take the step. You need to be vulnerable. But look at where being vulnerable and courageous gets you. It gets you learning and growing from the experience.
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