It’s clear that a controlling personality and the willingness to delegate tend to work against each other. As a young COO, I wanted to do too much myself, and that marginalized my own value, and that of my people. I knew it, but at the time, didn’t know what to do about it.
These days, in my work with executive clients, I’ve developed a simple way for the more controlling leader—tired of doing too much, or receiving feedback that it’s time to let go—to take the bull by the horns. I post it here, so you can try it yourself, or pass it along to someone you know.
- Identify everything you’re spending your own time doing. Check to do lists, calendar (look 30 days behind, 30 days ahead), emails, project lists, etc.
- Set up a round of one-on-one “delegation” meetings with each of your direct reports. Ask each one something like this: “I want you to be brutally honest with me: what am I doing myself, or holding up, that I can or should be delegating to you?” Explain that you are collecting this feedback, which you may or may not act upon, but want to help you consider the big picture.
- Make a list, by person, of each item they think you need to let go of control and delegate.
- Make an assessment, by person, in your heart of hearts, if they COULD do a good job on those items, even if it’s a stretch.
- When you’re willing to delegate a subset of those items (note, I didn’t say “ready,” as you may never feel “ready,”) go ahead and try it. Check back in with your people in 30 days on how delegation is flowing from you to them. Make sure there’s two-way feedback, which will help you both work out any snags in the process.
Letting go of control isn’t easy, and it won’t feel comfortable right away. My suggestion is that you bear with it, and keep working on it, until it feels more natural.
The Recovering Leader
Since 2006, I've shared here tips and ideas from my executive coaching practice and lessons-learned from my own experience as a C-level executive at a Fortune 500 company. Click on the "subscribe" link, on the top right, to receive emails of new posts when I add them. For more information about my coaching services, visit my coaching firm's site. Also, follow me on twitter at: recoveringleadr