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Delegating – I'll just do it myself…

Managers often complain to me: "Gosh Cécile, I have already read several books on leadership, but I find that I still have a lot of difficulty delegating".

"I do too much myself!”

"I do ask people to do something for me, but if they stall for a moment, I tend to quickly back down and think: I'll just do it myself.”

"If things are not progressing to my liking, if I have spent several e-mails and phone calls on it and I don't get an immediate response, I get impatient and often tackle it myself.”

"Because of the pressure and expectations from the organisation, I often think: I should keep my team out of harm’s way, I'll take care of it for them. After all, I am their manager, I am supposed to be there for my team.”

"When there are difficult, challenging projects and I notice that my team is struggling with them. Especially when I have expertise in that area myself, I find that I often pick it up myself.”

Dilemmas that I encounter a lot and that are often compounded by the idea that, as a manager, you are ultimately responsible, that you have to make sure the work gets done…

The saviour syndrome…

You are supposed to help your people, support them; after all, that is your role! It’s your responsibility. You are supposed to save your team, only then are you a good leader.

The consequences of these still prevalent views, of these 'unwritten rules of conduct', are many. From overburdened managers to dependent and insecure teams. If you want to change this, you have to do something both as an organisation and as an individual manager.

In this article, I mainly talk about what you can do as a manager. On the one hand, change in the force field of an organisation is often not at all obvious. It is precisely those 'unwritten rules of conduct' that strongly define the organisational culture, that are difficult to change. On the other hand, it is the managers are the ones who help 'write' these 'rules', help determine them, thus perpetuating or changing the existing culture. So changing your organisation starts with you…

Delegation can be learned…

So what about delegation? Can you change that in yourself? Can you learn how to do it? I think so, but once again, it starts with you. It starts with listening to your 'own wisdom' above all else. With taking seriously your own motivations, your own needs, with what is essential to you, why you do what you do. And listening to that. It is actually not about figuring out "How do I delegate?”. But about figuring out "Why do I find it so hard to delegate?”. In other words: "Why do I prefer to do things myself so much?”.

The why question: key to your needs and feelings

"Why do I actually like it so much when I notice that things are moving forward because of my actions?”

"Why does it benefit me so much to take on tasks myself?”

"Why do I like to take the lead myself on challenging projects?”

Within connecting communication, we say that you never do something for no reason, but always to fulfil an important need, something essential to you. As humans, we generally have 6 different, universal needs, regardless of our age, gender, education, culture, etc. . 

Getting more visibility into why you do what you do is crucial.

When I realise how much I love it when things move forward because of my actions, I also better understand why I tend to take over tasks from my team. Indeed, in doing so, I am fulfilling something that is essential to me: contributing, being meaningful, ensuring progress and efficiency. So taking over actually gives me a lot, which makes it hard to stop doing so.

And, if I don't realise this, it unconsciously determines my behaviour anyway. Especially in stressful situations, before I know it, have things taken over all sorts of things again. And that has consequences for the development and independence of my team and for my personal work-life balance.

The way out: looking for other ways to fulfil your needs…

We are very often stuck in one approach, I sometimes call it the ‘dead-end street’. As a manager, to ensure the progress and efficiency of projects, the only way seems to be to take over (especially in case of stress).

The ‘way out’ is in looking for other ways to fulfil what is essential to me. Instead of taking over, what else can I do or do differently to fulfil my need for progress and efficiency? I may be able to get my team more involved, see how they can monitor and improve the progress of projects together, what their ideas are. Then I make it a shared responsibility, allowing my team to grow and become more independent. This is also how I grow as a manager.

To change is often also to ‘mourn’.

If I love it so much when things move forward through my actions but I feel it is best to let go of this for my team, it can be an emotional dilemma for me: I feel I have to let go of something that is so important, pleasant, or fulfilling for me! I first have to get past that myself if I want to be able and, more importantly, willing to delegate. Otherwise, there's a real chance I'll pick it up myself again. Sometimes managers experience that this is why they actually prefer not to take a leadership role anymore, they want to do it themselves, that is what makes them most happy and fulfilled.

It's not about the HOW, it's about the WHY!

So to make delegation easier, we need to look not for the "How?" but for the "Why?". Looking for "Why do what I do, what actually drives me, what do I long for?" I am happy to support you in your search for your own wisdom and authenticity. Let me know if you want to discuss this further!


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