EP: 165 Three Hurdles To Delegation: How To Get Started And Save Time With Jennifer Pestikas

“Time is the only commodity that matters.” – Randy Pausch.

Since Jennifer is entering a busy season with Brave Women at Work and her corporate work, she has been thinking a lot about delegation. In this episode, Jennifer Pestikas shares the three hurdles to delegation she faced. She also shares tips to get started with delegation. Jennifer Pestikas brings a treasure trove of insights. Tune in to this episode so you won’t miss a thing today.

These are the questions Jennifer Pestikas asked herself:

  • What things am I currently doing that I should not be doing?
  • What feelings come up when I think of delegating something?
  • What else could I be doing with my freed-up time?

Listen to the podcast here

Three Hurdles To Delegation: How To Get Started And Save Time With Jennifer Pestikas

I’m so glad you’re here. How are you doing out there? Our show on delegation has been inspired by a couple of conversations I’ve had with a few dear friends. These friends have told me that they struggle to ask for help and to delegate to others whether that be this person’s team, their partners, their family members, or whoever is willing to help. These friends were saying to me, “Jen, I don’t want to do it. I feel weak. I don’t think I can. It’s not worth it,” and all these things. I then look back at all of the shows I’ve done. 

We’re at Episode 165, everybody. I can’t believe it. I was like, “I’ve not really focused on delegation.” Here we are. The first question is, can you relate and do you struggle with this? I’m also entering a very busy season with Brave Women at Work and also with my corporate work. Isn’t that how it always happens when you’re like, “I’m going to be really busy at my work, but then I’m really busy in my personal work,” or whatever it is, whether your work and your kids or your spouse is having a busy season. I’m having a busy season period. As a result, I’ve been thinking also personally a lot about delegation. 

Here are some things that I’m asking myself, “What are some things that I am doing now that I should not be doing?” We all have these things. You know that you have them and I know that I have them these things that we just should not be doing. We need to drop them. What are some feelings that come up when I think of delegating something? Maybe that is delegating a project at work. Maybe that’s delegating something to kids at home. I had a friend that I was talking to and she said, “My twelve-year-old does her own lawn laundry.” I’m like, “What if the laundry stinks? What if it doesn’t get put away? What if that kid’s room becomes a total disaster?” 

The Last Lecture

I’m just being real with you that those are some of the things that I think of delegating at home. What else could I be doing with my freed-up time? This gets me really motivated to start delegating. Let’s face it. This quote is from Randy Pausch who is a famous author. His quote is, “Time is the only commodity that matters.” Randy was a famous college professor and the author of the book The Last Lecture, which got a lot of press before he died of pancreatic cancer in 2008. If you haven’t read it, it’s a beautiful book. I highly recommend it. Randy knew a thing or two about how precious time was and continues to be because he was living in that balance with terminal cancer. 

We don’t have to have terminal cancer to understand how to delegate and how to realize that time is precious. This show is going to dive into those hurdles. We’re going to talk about how we can get better at delegation. I wanted to focus on three particular hurdles that I have faced personally with the delegation and then how we can get started with this whole delegation thing so we feel a little lighter, a little less stressed, and a little less burned out. 

Before we get started, if you’re enjoying this, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you’ve already left a rating or review, I thank you so much. Your support of the show means the world to me, so thank you. Also, I’ve got still one spot available for one-on-one leadership and career coaching. If you’re a working woman who would like help with professional confidence, asking for what you want, negotiating pay and/or benefits that you feel are in line with your contributions at work, and then getting to the next level in your career, jump on over to my website at BraveWomenAtWork.com to see if coaching is the right fit for you. 

Let’s jump into what delegation is and isn’t to start. Let’s go with the definition of delegation. According to our friends at Wikipedia, delegation is the process of assigning tasks responsibilities, and authority to another person, individual, or team. It sounds easy enough. No, it’s not that easy. I wanted to dive in a little bit more about what a delegation is and what isn’t. Delegation is not assigning something and then hovering over that person. I don’t consider that delegation. Delegation is the process of assigning tasks, responsibilities, and authority, but it’s not assigning something and then hovering or helicoptering over them. 

Delegation is an act of trust and surrender. Click To Tweet

It is not giving responsibility to a group only to criticize or compare the outcome based on what you would have done. That, in my mind, is not delegation. What is it? Delegation, in my own mind, is an act of trust and surrender. I got to tell you. I know people. I know another coach who has the word surrender tattooed on her forearm. I do not have a tattoo, but that might be one of the words that I eventually had to. Brave and maybe the word surrender is a reminder that part of my learning in this life is to surrender and to trust. delegation is a process of letting go of that boulder, that big, heavy thing, that burden that you’re carrying so that someone else who is hopefully more suitable or more qualified can do it for you and your team. What are the hurdles that I have personally experienced in delegation? 

I Can Do Better Than Everyone Else

These are ones that have truly rolled around my head and hopefully, you can relate, and let’s bust through them together. The first one that I have faced is, “I think I can do it better than everyone else.” Doesn’t that scream ego? The good old standby is, “If I’m going to have to get anything done, I have to do it by myself.” That ego is telling us a big fat lie, and it is a surefire path to stress and burnout. Do we really think it’s true that you are the only person that can get a particular task or project done or done correctly? Probably not. From my experience, there are two things that are happening with the ego in this particular scenario. 

The first one is we are afraid deep down that we are replaceable. We don’t want to give up the knowledge. We want to keep the cards close to our vest. I have to say here’s a hint. Most people, if not everyone, are replaceable at work. There are exceptions to every rule, but most of the time, we are replaceable. I don’t know if this is dating me big time, but thinking about that old movie now, an oldie but a goodie Jerry Maguire, Jerry Maguire is begging the people in the sports agency during the movie, “Who’s coming with me?” He leaves, and right after he leaves, he gets in the elevator and everything goes back to normal. 

That’s a hard truth to realize. We think that there’s going to be a band that plays and people are going to be really upset. Maybe they will be for a little bit, but life and time march on. Things just keep beating on in your office and your life to that drum and just keep moving on. You have unique gifts and talents, but most tasks in our jobs can be learned. You learn them at one point and someone else can learn them too. The ego doesn’t want you to hear that you’re replaceable, but it’s simply a fact. Another thing is that in leadership, we want people on our teams who complement us and are even better than us in certain areas. I’ll give you an example. There are wizards on my team with data analysis. If they’re reading, you know that I love you and all of your skills. 

I really enjoy these team members because Math and I are not BFFs. We are not best friends. I struggle with the analysis side. My brain doesn’t always bend that way. I’ve tried and it’s not as natural for me. It doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It just takes me a lot longer to do it. I’m more of a strategist, more of a high-level thinker, and an internal salesperson. When I work with my strengths and the strengths of our analysts in our analytics team, I have to say we are unstoppable. It’s awesome because I’m relying on my zone of genius. I’m also relying on their zone of genius. We are unbeatable. 

The second thing the ego would say is that we don’t want to take time to train someone else so we shortcut the situation and get it done because we think it’s going to be easier. That falls under the, “I’ll just do it myself.” We don’t want to take the time so we shortcut the situation. We do it ourselves because we’re like, “It was so much easier if I do it myself.” It can be easier in the short term, but in the long term, it’s going to take way more energy for you. The big question is why. It’s because you are still stuck doing the task. 

Taking Back Delegation

Let’s face it. You’re doing the task and the person who is working with you or for you in a team wonders, “Why don’t you trust this person? Why don’t you trust him, her, or they? That task can be done by someone else. Why don’t you trust?” This doesn’t create an environment of mutual respect, trust, and growth within the team. As a result, your employee or employees are going to get bored. They’re like, “I’ve really hit the ceiling.” They may look for other responsibilities. They may look for other duties or jobs elsewhere because they don’t feel stretched or, quite frankly, appreciated. The second big hurdle that I have personally experienced with delegation is this next lie, “I can take back ‘the tasks’ because it is taking too long or it may be better for my team to relieve them of this particular burden. They seem to be stressed.” 

I am not proud of this one, but I am famous for this delegation hurdle. I’ll delegate the task, but then I believe it’s taking too long. Patience is a virtue but it’s not one of my virtues. It’s something else that I’m working on in life. I feel like it’s taking too long so I’ll just swoop in and I’m like, “I’ll take it back.” What happens is I hear one of my managers or one of my team members say, “I’m stressed. I’m feeling overwhelmed.” What I do is I get into bad patterns. I get into people-pleaser mode and then, as a result, I forget, “I have other tasks and duties to do, so I’m now burdening myself by taking this back.” Regardless, I swoop in and help them by taking that task back. In my mind, faulty enough, I think that I need to take this off their plates. 

If I do take this off their plates, they’re going to be happier or less overwhelmed and then I get into full fix-it mode. Why this is probably not a good idea? This reinforces a lack of trust in the capability of that particular manager or employee to whom you originally delegated the task. That takeback of delegation is worse than not delegating the task at all because you’ve gone ahead and given someone a project only to take it away. I’ve done this many times and I can only imagine and want to apologize out there to the world of anyone that’s been in my team that I’ve done that to. I was doing it because I thought it was right for you or that it was of concern, but it’s not the right thing to do. 

It’s only going to lead to feelings of hurt and mistrust. The second thing under this main topic of the delegation takeback is that it fosters incompetence or a lack of effort. If you start this pattern of delegation takeback, your employees and/or managers are smart, and if they work with you for a while, they know that you’re going to keep following this pattern. They know that if they cry like a wolf or cry overwhelmed or stressed, you’re going to step in and do the work for them. This may cause them to have a lack of ownership in their work because they know it’s not staying with them anyway. They know it’s not there to begin with. 

They know it’s a temporary stop for the project to land right back on your desk, which is completely futile because it negates the whole delegation process. The last point underneath the idea of you want to do a delegation takeback is, by doing this, you’re going to create confusion for your team. If you’re not clear and you delegated something to someone for example, and then you take it back or you’ve done it a couple of times within the same task, you may have multiple people completing the task at the same time. Not great. It’s a waste of time, productivity, and energy, or, even worse, the task may not get done at all. No one really knows whose ball the court is in. Is it in mine? Is it in yours? It causes all types of confusion and it’s going to cause more frustration between the team because you’re not operating effectively. 

You become a cog in your own team’s wheel, which is exactly what you want to avoid with delegation in the first place. You become a cog in the team’s wheel which is exactly what you want to avoid in the first place. Often with delegation, you want to delegate and you want to step away, which is really hard for a recovering perfectionist, a high achiever, a striver, or someone who thinks they can do everything and all things, etc. On the heels of this point, the last hurdle that I’ve done is, “I can do it all. I don’t need to ask for help.” This is the one that inspired this Show. I have to start by saying sorry friends, but this is another lie that we tell ourselves. No one is built to do it all alone. Everyone has their unique gifts as we have discussed. 

Let’s add in a cliché for fun. There’s no I in the team. Trying to do it alone is a path to burnout and unhappiness. It also alienates us from our team or co-workers because we’re trying to work like robots and not like a human. Employees like it when we show our human side or our vulnerability. I don’t know if you have a team, but anytime that I’ve shared, “I’m really struggling. I really need help with this,” most people are great and they want to help. By sharing that vulnerability, it makes you more relatable. As a result, you’re going to have a better working relationship with that employee or group of employees. They want to help you because you’ve been open enough to ask for that support. 

I Can Do It All Mentality

Another reason that the ‘I can do it all’ mentality does not work is that it doesn’t make you a better leader or even a better individual contributor. We need to lean on others to reach their highest levels of productivity. As a leader, it is your responsibility to find those golden nuggets and those opportunities for greatness in your employees. If you’re a team leader or part of a team, it’s the same. I believe that a leader can be a leader whether they’re an actual “manager” responsible for the salary and evaluation of said team members or if they’re an individual contributor. You can help with delegation or be responsible for delegation no matter what your role or the scope of your role is. 

The next piece is that there is a saying that you can only juggle so many balls in the air at one time. You need to know which balls are rubber and can bounce on the ground and not break and which ones are glass and will shatter if they hit the ground. Think about that metaphor. Some of my personal glass balls are my health, my family, my friends, and my children. As you may have noticed, I didn’t say that work is a glass ball for me. If my health goes bad and it goes downhill and I get a chronic condition or even an acute condition, I can’t easily turn that around. If it’s a cold, it’ll take time for you to heal, but what if it’s chronic? What if it’s an autoimmune condition? I can’t easily turn that around. 

In some cases, it may be completely irreversible. The same thing may go with my relationships with my family, my friends, my spouse, and my children. All of these relationships are precious to me. I need to spend time there. I need to spend effort there. I need to nourish those relationships and those glass balls in my life. With work, most of the time, I can fix the problem. The ball can drop. It’ll bounce. Do we want it to bounce? No, but can it bounce? Sure. Someone else can take the wheel for a little bit. It’s okay to have someone else do something and potentially make a mistake, I know, God forbid, but it’s okay. We can make a mistake. 

There are exceptions to every rule. I thought of like, “Who would be an exception to this?” I don’t want my brain surgeon or my heart surgeon to have an off day. Sorry for the brain surgeons or heart surgeons out there. I don’t want that, but for most professions, it’s okay to let go of that tight grip. That’s what makes delegation super difficult. We need to let go of control. Remember the word surrender. Also, allow someone else to do it at a different pace or a different way than we would. If we’re asking them to get from A to B, we may have taken a more direct A to B. Maybe they’re meandering, but as long as they get there, they get there. While this is a challenge for a recovering perfectionist like me, I have found that I’m a better leader, manager, wife, daughter, and friend for it. Let’s switch off of the hurdles and say we know we’ve got some hurdles. 

Maybe you’re like me and you face similar thoughts, actions, or mistakes before with delegation. How do we change that behavior? How do we get started or restarted with delegation? The first thing is to do a brain dump. Review your job description or write out a list of everything you are working on now. What is mission critical that you complete? What do you absolutely have to do on that list and only you? You’re going to take those on. Maybe you start those or you put them in a priority order. What are the projects that you could give someone else to? Who would that person be? Who would that group of people be? Think about your team or your coworkers and write down their strengths. 

Even better yet, and I’ve mentioned this on the show before, take your own StrengthsFinder. Have the team take StrengthsFinder and then match them all up and see where all the strengths are so you don’t have any confusion or you’re guessing. Some questions to think about, who in the team is great with numbers? Who is a great researcher? Who delivers a great presentation? Those are just examples. Leverage the strengths of the people in your team. The next step is to start small. I am not asking you to go where you’re ready after this show and like, “Yes, I’m so excited.” You could delegate something big if you’d like, but most people want to start small. Start with delegating a small task that you are okay to let go of or even if you’re not okay. 

I’m going to challenge you here. Let go of something small and see how it goes. If you build trust with a particular person or group, delegate another task and see how it goes. This is how trust and a great working relationship, whether it’s with your people, with your team, or with other people outside of work personally how these great relationships are born. Check in with yourself. That’s the next step. If you find yourself tempted to take a task back, I’m raising my hand, I’m guilty over here, check in with yourself. What is going on with you? What are you feeling or thinking about? Stop yourself short and let that delegation process continue. Don’t cut it off. Give that team member or that group the time to complete the project or task. 

Remember what I said. Your A to B may be more direct and maybe a different route. There might be more meandering. It may take a little bit longer, but you have to respect the process. You need to give those team members time to complete the project or the task. I must say if the project or task isn’t completed on time and everyone agrees to a certain deadline, this gives you a great opportunity for a coaching conversation or a follow-up conversation. You can ask what challenges that person faced. Was additional training needed? Was there something else going on that prevented the employee from getting what needed to get done? 

Some people may want to take on stuff because they don’t want to have these crucial conversations, but that doesn’t help either. We have to allow the task to go forward and give an agreed-upon deadline, and then if you’re a people manager, you need to hold people accountable. That’s how delegation and the process work. This is the hardest step it has been for me because I need to break and have had to break my own patterns of a lack of delegation. I needed to delegate and walk away, not swoop in and put my Superwoman cape on and say, “I can do everything. I can do it better. I’m going to take it back from you.” That’s not delegation. 

The last couple steps in the process are, number one, to repeat this process. You’re building new muscle. You’re going to have to periodically do a brain dump. You’re periodically going to have to go back to the drawing board and start small. You’re going to have to check in with yourself. You then are going to have to repeat this over and over again to make sure that your comfort level with delegation grows. I’m not going to be all roses and rainbows here. 

Hurdles To Delegation: When building new muscle, you will have to do a brain dump.

Sometimes it’s not easy, but I assure you that you’re going to be super happy on the other side of this exercise and you’re going to be happy with the results because it’s not all going to be on your shoulders and you’re going to have engaged team members on the sides of you, which are going to make you feel like, “We can do anything together. We can do more things together rather than me on my own.” Finally, you’re going to want to learn. That’s the last step of the how-do-we-get-started part of this. You’re going to want to learn from each delegation. Maybe the final product of the delegation isn’t up to what your expectations are. It happens. 

Again, that gives you a conversation opportunity with that employee if you are a people manager. Maybe you delegated to an employee whose strength was in a different area and you didn’t do the homework before to get an idea or learn what the strengths are within the team. If that happens, you don’t have to take away the whole project from that person. You can always pair that person who may not have strength and that area with someone who does so that both employees can learn. Someone can be a team lead in that process and someone can learn and still complete the delegation. The kicker is delegation isn’t foolproof. You aren’t delegating to yourself. You’re delegating to another human being with their own mind, their own gifts, their attitudes, emotions, faults, and the list goes on, like opportunities for improvement. 

Delegation isn't foolproof. You aren't delegating to yourself. You're delegating to another human being with their mind, gifts, attitudes, and emotions. Click To Tweet

This is going to be a learning experience or a learning exercise for you as well. You will need to give yourself a hefty amount of compassion and grace along the way. In summary, here are the top three hurdles we covered that I have personally experienced or seen with delegation. Here are those lies that I’ve told myself, “I can do it better, I can take it back so I can help others, and I can do it all.” How do we start changing this? 

The process is to do that brain dump, start delegating small things to build your comfort level, check in with yourself so you can stop some unhealthy delegation patterns, repeat the process, and learn along the way. That does it for our discussion on the top three hurdles to delegation and how to get started. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts or any other platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up, delegate, and be brave. 

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