I met with a client this week who is a successful business owner. Her clients are so impressed with her design work and the results she brings. However, following the initial meeting, the relationships tend to start off rocky. Why? She’s not doing her best at delegating.

She often misses promised deadlines on the first step of the process. She is always quick to apologize to the client for the missed deadline and absolutely makes sure to meet the 2nd promised deadline. They haven’t lost many customers due to this early missed deadline, but it definitely strains the early relationship and makes her feel shame. This behavior pattern has been going on far longer than she would like, but she can’t seem to make the shift to begin delegating necessary tasks in order to make the first deadlines more feasible.

Delegating can be stressful but necessary

She asked me: “why can’t I make the promised deadline?” It seems doable, but I just can’t do it. As with many other things, the action appears easy, but it is not.

It turns out the task for this early promised deadline is something she needs to begin delegating to someone else.

She isn’t the only expert in that task within her business. Her time and effort must be spent on other high-value-added tasks, which is why she misses the original deadlines. She is focused on high-value tasks and yet won’t let this one go.

Do you have a task or idea at work that you won’t let go of, even though there are many indications that it is time to delegate? 

What got in her way?

My client and I explored beneath the surface to understand why she wasn’t letting the task go. This particular client had very high-quality expectations, and she did not want to give up control. Two distinct insights helped her let go of control.

  1. One of the insights that stuck out most to her was in understanding that she had very high expectations and was also letting those expectations down by missing deadlines. She was holding on to one task that needed to meet high quality while allowing high-quality standards toward a successful customer relationship to fall. It was an automatic behavior pattern at work. Instead of getting curious about the seemingly contrary behaviors around high quality, the fear of missing the quality standard on one end of the process caused her to double down on the control. She made sure she was the only one to do this task, so there was high quality when she delivered it. 
  2. She also held on to the notion that the client expected her to do this particular task. She realized that she set those expectations with the client but was operating from the place of thinking the client had created the expectation. When she realized she was the one who set the expectation, she recognized there was some room for change. 

Delegating for the win!

My client has brought in another team member to handle this specific task.

My client is still overseeing the task to ensure the standards are met, but I’m sure she will be able to step out of the task even further as the team member gets to experience it. Not only are the first deadlines being met and clients are happy, but my client is no longer feeling shame and beating herself up for missing the deadline. She is also free to work on other high-value tasks that she is uniquely suited to do without the stress of too much work hanging over her. 

When you identify a task or idea you won’t let go of, dig in a little more

When you think of delegating it to someone else, what thoughts come to mind:

  • No one will do it as well as I will.
  • I’m always the person who does this. It’s up to me.
  • The customers expect me to take care of it. They won’t trust anyone else.
  • No other team member has the time or the experience to take this on. 

From there, simply get curious and ask yourself, what if I am wrong about this statement? See what insights come from that question.

This curiosity should be enough to show you potential new paths that are open for experimenting!