If you listen closely almost everyone talks about being too busy. Being busy is a great way to stunt your leadership growth. After all, if you are busy, you have an excuse that covers many mistakes including dropping the ball, losing opportunities, or being sidetracked by overwhelm.
We keep trying to solve the “too busy” problem with time-management courses, or new technology but the problem of being too busy still exists and results in loose ends, lowered performance, and increased stress and anxiety.
What I’ve discovered by mistake is that besides the inability to see the choices, or the unwillingness to do so, being too busy is usually a result of the failure to delegate. So if delegation is the answer, why don’t we do it more often? We fail to delegate because of these three reasons:
When you are good at something, or you have done something yourself for years, you become unconsciously competent. In other words, you can do the job without thinking. The drawback is that you do not understand the step by step process needed to break the job down into “modules” so to speak, so that you can effectively train someone else to do it for you. For years I handled all of my own posting on social media, and blogging, booked my own travel, and formatted my own contracts. When I hired an executive assistant to do those things for me, it was difficult to know where to start and difficult to believe someone could do what I’d been doing for years any better than I could. Boy was I wrong. I now realize that a lot of the problem was really about trust.
If you have uncovered the process of how to train someone to do what you do, the next step is to actually allow someone else to take charge. This requires that you trust. You must trust the other person to deliver. You must trust yourself to mentor, or to initiate difficult conversations around performance. You must learn to trust yourself to handle disappointment. You must trust yourself to stay out of the way while the other person learns.
Before I started trusting, I would make an assignment and then do it myself. I know it sounds crazy but if you ask employees, this is not uncommon.
The inability to trust someone else to do something as efficiently or eloquently as you is often a disguise for a deeper need: the need to be important. If you listen closely to a leader, owner or entrepreneur, you will hear a variation of, “No one can do this as well as I can…” which may be about trust, or it may be a hidden agenda to prove your superiority. In order to fully trust, you have to get rid of some beliefs about yourself and others that may be holding you back. Once you handle the trust issue, the vacuum awaits.
When you eliminate anything from your life, you create a vacuum. It doesn’t matter if you empty your office of the furniture, or you eliminate a dreaded job from your workday, elimination creates a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum.
When you hand over some of your work to someone else, you immediately have extra time. Even if the extra time is a few hours or a few days, your mind is not preoccupied, there is time to think. The thoughts that come to you may not be pleasant. You may wonder what to do next. This can create worry and anxiety. In addition, there’s no excuse to drop balls. You have time to make that return call or answer the email. If you start a new project make sure you have enough time to finish.
Who are you without your deadlines, overwhelm and attachment to being too busy? It can feel a little strange. In order to fill the vacuum, you can think about things you never thought about. Being busy kept you from the awareness of these thoughts and feelings. It’s easy to be too busy. It takes leadership and personal growth to delegate.
Points to Ponder
1. How many times a day do you talk about being too busy?
2. What tasks could you cross train someone to do?
3. What are the reasons you do not delegate some of your tasks?
Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011). Marlene’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people to discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world. Marlene’s message is spreading across the country at association meetings, corporate retreats, universities and other venues. If interested in exploring speaking or training opportunities please call 1.888.434.9085
Photo credits: (top) Kevin Dooley (middle and bottom) Sal Falko, via CC licenses