Cereales sabor frutasWe’ve all been there. We have a routine. We have a plan. We have expectations about how things should go. It really doesn’t matter if the plan is how to run a meeting, work through a project, make a presentation, or simply how to run your morning so that you get out the door on time, you know how to get the desired result. You have done this “a thousand times.”

In our house, we are working on delegation. As true as it may be that it’s hard for some leaders to delegate, it is AS true when considering the parent and child. So this morning, when my husband and I delegated the pouring of the cereal and milk to the 8, 6, and 4 year olds, I saw clearly, though in a decidedly different environment, the leadership delegation dilemma come to life.

One child joined my husband at the counter, two, then three before the increase of activity became too much and my husband exclaimed, “It’s all elbows and chaos in here!”

The whole affair was a little stressful. We both kept watching from just close enough to make sure we could step in if needed but far enough so the kids understood we knew they were capable. Still, he and I did not intervene with the work at hand. Amidst this chaos, the “leaders” in the room kept letting the kids do their jobs. Please don’t misunderstand. This was not easily done and not done without opportunities to practice in small ways before today. Want to know how we kept it form going all loopy? Perhaps the same methods could be applied in the workplace when it’s all elbows and chaos for you.

  1. Take a deep breath.  I know this sounds pretty simple and common sense, but how often do we really do this? When you catch yourself tensing up, thinking of how this is all gonna go wrong if you don’t step in, try just taking three deep breaths. No, really. Just humor me.
  1. Step back for a better view.  Now that you’ve taken that breath, take a few steps back (literally or figuratively) from the chaos at hand. What’s really happening? Are you fretting because the work isn’t getting done or because it’s not being done your way? Is the work heading toward disaster or just heading down a different path to the same destination? Keep in mind, there isn’t one right way to do things.
  1. Assist without re-acquiring.  Since you have stepped back a bit (you have, right?), and your elbows aren’t in the mix anymore, you can see the whole picture. It’s time to take an honest look and determine where you might need to provide assistance. Where can you help but also allow your teammate, or employee (or family member…) to understand that you still think they are capable? Help without taking the activity back from the other person or team. Then, get busy with the other work you need to do.
  1. Repeat steps 1-3 until you are able to breathe easy and move on to the work that has been delegated to you.

Delegation may not be easy for strong leaders but it is SO necessary if we ever want to do something bigger, better or different than what we’re doing today. The benefit is not just for the strong leader but also the up-and-comer. Out of the effort of your delegation, you will likely find the next rising star or hidden star performer. Perhaps you may even find a better way to do the same old thing resulting in saving you time, money or frustration in the long run.

What kind of elbows and chaos are you facing today?  How do you keep things from going loopy and get back to calm?