We, in the military, drew a fine line between ‘delegation’ and ‘dereliction of duty’. There were many who claimed the first while really exhibiting the latter.

It made me wary of those that advocated greater delegation as a requisite for leadership. This was, of course, before I became a business owner; since then I have been more and more aware of the need to delegate at least some of the day to day tasks which consume my time – and that of my business partner.

We are both – I think – mindful of the need but wary of the practice. In short, we are probably both control freaks!!

My main problem is that I actually like the minutia of administration and creation of systems. As an army Chief Clerk as well as a long time wearer of the Rose Corp Badge I have immersed myself in such stuff – and I feel that I am good at it. It is always difficult to step away from something that you not only enjoy, but are recognised as being good at!

On the other hand, I also am passionate about the training field; and I created a highly innovated style of training whilst in the military. When Trish and I got together, she also embraced this new and exciting style and we found that while individually we are good – together it has been said that ‘we are awesome!’ – I am quoting not boasting!!

So, where to assign the bulk of our time? I don’t think that we really have a problem in recognising the reality – but both of us are having difficulty with daring to delegate!

In fact, this is really an exercise in inspiration – inspiring both of us to take that extra step backwards and delegate!

The book that I consulted in my attempt to bring myself to the brink of delegation (The Manager’s Handbook by Arthur Young, 1986 Crown Publishers, New York) has this to say:

‘Delegating responsibility to others increases your available time to carry out important work. Delegation also develops your team which, in turn, increases the effectiveness of your operation and improves your chances of achieving your department’s goals.’

One of the difficulties in delegating is relinquishing the mechanics of the tasks; especially if we have been used to using a specific routine. Others may do things differently, and we can often interpret that as doing them less well.

I think we need to put up this sign in the office –

There is more than one way to skin a cat …
But there is no way the cat is going to like it!!
– just to remind ourselves that changing methods can sometimes be a painful experience for us.

There is, of course, a small fly in the ointment (isn’t there always?) and that is the actually preparation for delegation.

We need to be exact in our description of what we want our team to do. We cannot be vague, and we cannot assume that our team are mind readers and will instinctively pick up on the unspoken or assumed knowledge that we carry around with us.

We have begun to delegate tasks, and have devised check lists to ensure that the nuts and bolts of the tasks are outlined and measurable. But it is often the unrecognised assumptions that undo our good intentions. There will be one small aspect of the task that we do not mention – but when missed will cause unpleasant outcomes for us.

I am beginning to wonder if we do this intentionally!!! It is so much easier to say “Oh let me do it, it will be much faster” and then use that as an excuse to tell ourselves “this will never work!” and with a sigh of relief, take back that task and try and fit it into our busy life styles.

In the military, as I moved up through the ranks it became impossible not to delegate, and while I initially suffered nervous prostration at the thought of the task not being done as I had done it, I did eventually learn some worthwhile lessons.

I found that while my staff may not perform to my exacting standards, they certainly completed the delegated task effectively. And once they had made the task their own, they often came up with really innovative ideas to increase their efficiency.

It is – as Arthur Young realised long before I did – a much better use of my time and effort, and releases me to be more engaged in the stuff that the business is all about – innovative training.

But, oh!… it is difficult … nevertheless, with time and effort and with courage, we will achieve it I am sure. We just need to dare to ……

Michele @ Trischel

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