Early Saturday morning I went to the Long Beach Fire Department’s Training Center to attend a traffic control class for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. The CERT program manager, Firefighter/Paramedic Jake Heflin, a highly respected and nationally recognized expert in emergency preparedness and response as well as a sought-after FEMA-certified trainer, came in a few minutes later. The look on his face suggested he hadn’t slept in days. Professional that he is, he rallied to get the class started by introducing our Long Beach Police Department trainer.
During the break, I asked Jake how things were going. He had just returned from a week-long trip to Phoenix, the White House had called him to request that he write a letter explaining how emergency preparedness would affect one of its initiatives, his work had piled up in his absence, and he was worried about the funding for his position, which ends in September. Plus he hadn’t seen his family in a week, and Sunday was Mother’s Day in the U.S. No pressure!
“Pat,” he said, “I need to be operating at the 50,000 foot level. Instead, I’m down here in the weeds. I need to learn now to delegate.”
“Jake,” I replied, “I have just the tool for you. It’s a very simple question that provides immediate clarity. Ask yourself, ‘Am I the only person who can do [the task at hand]?’ If the truthful answer is ‘Yes,’ then do it. Otherwise, delegate it.”
Though the question is a simple one that cuts to the chase, I find that leaders have a hard time actually releasing tasks they should be delegating. Sometimes there is no one to whom they can hand things off. However, even that “excuse” often can be overcome with a little creativity. Most of the time, there are beliefs that hold leaders back. See if either of these rationalizations resonates with you:
“No one else can do it as well as I can.”
“I can do it faster myself.”
Although these statements may be true, here’s why allowing such beliefs to prevent you from delegating tasks is problematic on three levels:
1. Organization: you are not serving your organization well because you are misallocating scarce resources, namely your time.
2. Employees: you are failing to develop your staff by withholding opportunities for them to learn and grow.
3. Self: you are hurting yourself because you unnecessarily are increasing the amount of stress you face, which has a negative effect on your health as well as on your performance.
So please – do yourself and everyone else a favor: stop making excuses and start delegating! By releasing those tasks that others can do and focusing on those that you are uniquely qualified to do (or that you love to do), you will experience a dramatic increase in well-being. As a bonus, those to whom you delegate the tasks will appreciate the trust you are showing in them.
© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.