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Thou Shalt Not Be A Control Freak (Effective Delegation for Leaders)

It’s my favourite month – the time of year when the Mindful in May community convene to provide education, tools and support to build a sustainable meditation practice. If you’re not in the know, Mindful in May was founded by the wonderful Dr. Elise Bialylew, to impart life-changing mindfulness practices and fundraise for clean water projects around the world. Awesome on so many levels.

This week’s ‘What’s your biggest work-related challenge?’ topic is ‘how to delegate’. Delegation can be tricky business for even the most seasoned leaders. Common issues include lack of skilled resources, clear purpose, and goals, resulting in communication issues, reactive feedback and inertia. The good news is, there are delegation ‘quick wins’ you can implement to change the game, reduce stress and burnout, and increase the energy and engagement of your team.

If you struggle to delegate, consider the problem might not merely be circumstantial (lack of time, skills and resources) and that subconscious beliefs, biases, and coping strategies influence how we ‘show up’ in life and at work. Like smoke that permeates your clothes, shadow lingers and undermines in subtle ways. Expressions of unresolved shadow in leadership include micromanagement [inability to trust/ relinquish control], risk aversion [fear of failure and being stepped down], and perfectionism [co-dependency and rework]. Resolving shadow is the catalyst of transformational leadership and team success.

“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” – John C. Maxwell

Here’s four things you can do to improve delegation:

- Offer ego-free direction and support: As a leader, set the tone and get out of the way. Are you a transactional leader who gives orders, tightly controls, and takes credit for team success, or a transformational leader who empowers and guides people to push the boundaries of what is possible – to make mistakes without ego attachment? Failure is an essential aspect of growth and progress. Hence, your relationship with risk and failure can ultimately determine high-performance – whether tasks and projects are delivered on time, budget, and with excellence.

- Delegate responsibility and authority: Partial delegation kills innovation and stifles growth. This is the context whereby leader’s handover responsibility but don’t give up authority [for fear of loss of control] – micromanagers who task responsibility then insist on everything being run by them. Don’t be that kind of leader. Let people make mistakes – it’s how they learn and grow.

- Give people work they will be inspired to do: Teams thrive when they know their work makes a difference. As a leader, when you see beyond the obvious and seek to create wider reaching impact [that extends into community and influences complex social problems] the game changes. I’m talking about purpose beyond profit – the opportunity to contribute to a healthier whole.

- Proactively oversee: Leaders who enable and provide oversight without smothering people change team dynamics from control and disempowerment to collaborative autonomy. Effective delegation isn’t a ‘set and forget’ practice – it requires your presence. If you see signs of a team member being overwhelmed and step in to assist [without taking back control] they will appreciate you, feel supported and work hard to deliver at a higher level.

Until next time...


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