Release & No backseat driving!


Max drivingI can relate to the daily prompt topic of release. It was one of my hardest lessons to learn. Not saying I’m a control freak (okay, maybe) but letting others step in and help changed my stress level immensely.

My dog Max and Cooper take turns being Alpha. Sometimes Max calls the shots and sometimes it is Cooper. When it switches, they seem to accept the new role with grace. So how does that translate as a lesson?

Delegate and let it go! AKA, release! and don’t be a backseat driver.

It is a beautiful thing to watch as Cooper and Max work out their roles on a day-to-day or, sometimes, a minute-to-minute basis. If Cooper feels like letting Max take his toy, he allows Max to snatch it from him without so much as a glance. Giving Max the alpha position on occasion builds Max’s confidence. Then there are the days when Max is being an overpowering, obnoxious brat and needs a lesson in manners. If he goes to snatch a toy, Cooper covers it and gives a soft growl. Max stops in his tracks. If he tries to wrestle Cooper and Cooper is not in the mood, he sits on Max and game over … much like you see an older brother sitting on the younger one.

So how do I put this lesson in practice? Sometimes I am the doer, and sometimes I delegate. We can’t do it all, even if we hate to admit it. I remember being at a meeting once at a new company. The president asked one of the managers if she could take on an assignment. With a smile and no apology, she told him her plate was full and, if she took that on, she would not be able to give it her full attention and do a quality job. She also pointed out that if she accepted the assignment, several previously assigned deadlines would be missed. He nodded and turned to another employee who took the assignment.

I must have turned white or had a cartoon look on my face (you know the one – eyes bugged out of the head, tongue on the floor, and an “arruuugaaa” horn going off in the background) because after the meeting he approached me and said, “you know you are allowed to say ‘no’ to a request.” Uh, say “no”? In all my years, I was not aware that this was ever a possibility. When did this little gem get added to the rulebook? I was in my 40s at the time. I sure could have used this bit of 411 when I stepped into the working world a few decades back. It would have eliminated many nights of working into the early hours trying to meet a deadline. Just say no, huh. That is the easiest step to crossing items off your to-do list. Just say no and don’t add them, who knew. The worst that could happen is the request is denied and your “no” response becomes “when do you want that?” Doesn’t hurt to try.

So the “no” didn’t work this time and a task has been added to your “already impossible to accomplish” list of things to do. Be open to examining your tasks and organizing them by priority. Decide what has to be done and is immediate, what has to be done but can wait, and what is a nice to have, but the world wouldn’t stop spinning if you cross it off your list. This is a critical step in gaining control over the many spinning plates that you can’t seem to bring down, tie a bow on, and put away as done. Notice how I said done, not perfect. The key word is “done.” Waiting for something to be perfect just leaves it in the air longer than necessary. Nothing is ever perfect. Do your best, fill the requirements of the task, and close it out. Upload it, email it, publish it; whatever the “it” is, just do it and walk away. If something comes up in the future that you missed, give it a tweak and close ‘er down again.

There are many ways to get control of your to-do list. Just walk into any bookstore and throw a dart at a book or do a Google search and pick what resonates with you. Delegating was the hardest for me but I’m so thankful I learned it. In fact, one of my direct reports said to me, “man, have you mastered the art of delegating.” I know she was sharing that she was being weighed down but, it was a proud moment for me (I hadn’t learned the “no” lesson yet or I would have shared it with her).

There is a significant step in delegating that I think most people miss. This applies especially to the perfectionist. When you delegate, it should be the same as bringing it down, tying a pretty bow on it, and crossing it off the list. Give it away 100%. When I first started delegating, I would keep ownership of it. I was a hovercraft. I watched over the person I gave it to, making sure they did it just right (also known as making sure it was done my way, which was, of course, the perfect way, or so I thought).

When the task was done, I would take it back, examine it for perfection, make tweaks, or end up redoing it because the result wasn’t what I had in mind. Dear God, delegating was killing me. It added steps and time to getting ‘er done. Whose brilliant idea was it to delegate?

I was missing a crucial component. Delegate and release. Trust the person you gave it to and don’t be a backseat driver. There are plenty of things on your list that has you at the wheel. Everyone grows and learns when they are empowered to own a task from start to finish. Let it go, shake off the need to have something perfect, and trust that it is getting done. In the beginning, it will be hard and you may want to redo the dishes after your teenager washes them, but will you die of dysentery if the dishes can’t be used as surgical instruments?

Release my friends. You will be glad you did.

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