by Sarah Welch
Over the holiday season, I got an unprecedented two weeks to unplug. It reminded me of what’s important, and I resolved to figure out how to be less frantic in the coming year. My problem: I’m a grade-A control freak. Already I’m back in the same work-work-work rush-rush, not enough time to relax, not enough quality time with my family rut. Why am I not able to succeed at this?
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a man named Nick, cofounder of a consulting company called Mahafortuna.com. After listening to me complain about having to do x and y because I couldn’t ‘trust’ someone else to do it, he quietly said, “you need to learn to let people surprise you.” It stopped me cold. He was absolutely right. I’d never thought of it that way before, and the positive spin made a lot of sense. I was used to thinking of letting go in terms of failure (am I giving up, do I not care, am I a bad employee, am I a bad mother?), or in a black and white way (it won’t be done right unless I take the reigns). One simple phrase enabled me to see that I didn’t really have to do so many things all by myself, I just needed to figure out how to let go enough so that others could surprise me.
Learning to delegate is one of the core principles of Buttoned Up. Ironic that as a co-founder of the company, I’m still struggling with the concept! But, that just goes to show you that it’s not an easy trick to learn. So, here are a few tips to help you open up your heart a little and hand over the reigns to someone else so that you have more time to do the things you really want to be doing.
#1 Be Positive
One thing that people who are good at letting go have figured out is that we’re all on the same team! So simple, but control freaks have a tendency to stress-out while waiting for the person that has taken over the situation to fail or screw things up. It’s competitive, not cooperative. But you want them to do well, because it means one less thing on your plate! So, if you find yourself stressing about someone else not doing a ‘good enough’ job, take a beat and ask yourself if they’re generally on the right track. If they are, cheer them on with gusto right away – via email, text, phone message, or in person. Don’t wait. If they’re off course, reach out to them and note some positive things they’re doing, and then work with them to figure out how to get back on track. When they succeed, you succeed.
#2 Add It Up
Consider this, if you were able to assign one or two tasks that collectively consumed 15 minutes a day to another person, you would gain an extra 91 hours a year! On a more modest scale, that means you’d gain an extra 1hr 45min per week. How might you use that extra time to do something you really want or need to do. The more you focus on what you gain by letting something go, the easier it is to actually let go.
#3 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Soap opera dramas depend on a lack of communication between characters. If you don’t communicate with the people you’re either directly delegating things to, or who are taking over projects from you, get ready for a little soap opera of your own. To avoid that nastiness all together, discuss and agree the desired outcome, be specific about success criteria and deadlines, and put in place some regular (but not stifling) checkpoints to discuss the progress being made along the way.