The call came in this morning from the head of Building Operations, and I could feel the pull to jump into action. My mind was saying, “They need me! I have to help!” and at the same time, I could feel the resentment and frustration starting to come up. This is not what I had planned for my morning.
Here’s the background: My parents have just moved to a new Assisted Living near me, downsizing from a 2-bedroom apartment, to a 1-bedroom. I was with them last week in New York when the movers came to pack up, and it was clear that they have more stuff than they will be able to fit into their new apartment. Some of it will be coming to my basement. The plan we agreed to was that the movers would bring it all to them, they would do a rough sort, and then I’ll help them shift everything that doesn’t fit – either taking it into my home, or arranging for it to be donated.
But this morning, there was confusion about that plan, and I was being called to drop everything and help. As I sorted through the situation, it occurred to me that this is EXACTLY what managers face when delegating. You’ve come up with a solid plan, and just as it starts to get difficult, your delegate cries for help. Or someone sees them struggling and pressures you to get involved. Do you drop everything and jump in? Or do you give them time to sort it out for themselves?
The pull to jump in is very strong. I could feel it through my whole body. “They need me! I have to help!” It’s so powerful to be needed. To know I could help. “Here I come to save the day!” (One client and I dubbed this “Mighty Mouse Syndrome” for those of you old enough to remember that cartoon.)
Having just moved, I could picture the mess that their apartment will be, with boxes everywhere, while they sort it all out. By not helping today, I’m pretty sure I’ll be facing a mess down the road. – that I could probably mitigate if I step in.
This happens when we delegate, too. Sometimes we just know that if we don’t help, we’ll be facing a mess later. That’s the other thing I hear from clients about what stops them from delegating and letting go. It will be faster if I do it myself. I’ll just have to clean it up later, so what’s the point?
The point is, when you jump in and rescue someone from the mess, you set up a pattern that gets in the way of their learning and their independence. You set yourself up to do more and more, pulled from one crisis to another, until there’s no time left for the strategic work that is yours to do. That takes a toll on your career. Moving up means learning how to let go. Sometimes, team members need to have the opportunity to face the challenge, to discover the mess, to figure out how to work through it. It’s part of their growth – and part of yours, as their manager, to let them. Even if it means a bit of clean-up down the road.
If you’d like to work on your delegating skills, and learn how to hold firm in the face of the potential mess, in order to build the capacity of your team and to get out of the rat race of trying to do everything yourself, let’s talk. Book a call with me, and let’s talk about how you can take your leadership and your career to the next level.