Case study from Leigh Harrison
Failing to delegate
I have been notoriously bad at delegation. Two situations illustrate this:
I was asked to organize a spiritual development weekend to be led by an international guest speaker. The weekend had a particular structure according to a standard format as established by the organization I was working with in the States. I was given clear guidelines on the structure and what would be required.
I did all the marketing, advertising and confirming the reservations of the participants myself. I arranged the venue, and made all the other pre-weekend arrangements.
I did organize that my sister-in-law led the times of worship which included morning devotional times as well as daily communion sessions. However, she understood that she would only provide the music and I would organize the theme and structure and lead these sessions!
Over the weekend I took on the roles of registrar, bursar, bookseller, counselor, worship leader, entertainer (I organized an evening of games and an ice-cream party for the Saturday night) and logistics co-coordinator, which included shopping for the participant’s incidentals. On top of this our guest speaker came down with a virus which slowly over the course of the weekend prevented her from speaking so I did her final day’s talk!
Needless to say by the end of the weekend I was so exhausted I myself got sick!
I was appointed regional co-coordinator in Gauteng of an organization called Christian Listeners. It was based in UK but was being established in South Africa with regions also in Cape Town and Kwazulu-Natal.
My job was to establish Christian Listeners in the region by running CL training courses that would lead to the training of CL tutors. I was part of an initial group of 10 trained by the overseas “mother” organization, of which 7 said they would continue to offer their time and resources to the growing of CL in Gauteng. Over the course of five years we ran over 40 listening courses and three tutor training events. I initiated a committee to assist in the running of the organization and I met with the other regional co-coordinators annually.
By the end of these five years there were two of us still keeping the organization going? It now no longer exists in Gauteng.
There were external factors to consider such as the fact that the kind of person required to be a CL tutor is the kind of person who is already very involved and in high demand and has little time and energy to give to another volunteer organization. Offering these courses involved a lot of preparation and traveling time as well as the course time, and time is a rare commodity in Gauteng. Various unforeseen personal events resulted in several team members leaving.
However, the bottom line is that I was not able to fulfill my mandate and this was largely due to a failure in delegating.
What I learnt
From these experiences I learnt the following:
- As competent as I may be I cannot do everything myself. I need others.
- Trying to do everything myself is detrimental to my health and relationships as I suffer all the symptoms of exhaustion and stress.
- I need to communicate my expectations clearly, as well as negotiate well enough in advance exactly what people are prepared to do and what they understand their role to be.
- Even seemingly small tasks are important and can take more time than you think, so finding someone else willing to do them is worth it.
- You have to work within the priorities people have in their lives.
- Failure to delegate effectively results in a lack of strength, energy and continuity in your organization.
My growth in awareness through the Aleph processes
As I have experienced the processes and mentorship guidance through ebio and Aleph I have come to a new and deeper understanding of delegation. This has impacted on my belief system and opened up a way for me to delegate with greater freedom and confidence.
There have been some fundamental shifts in my belief system and they are as follows:
- I believed that if I could do it I should do it. My unconscious belief was that if I had the competency I had the job. In fact I was being lazy if I didn’t do everything the job required. This did not come from an overly developed sense of pride, although I see the pride in it now, but from a sincere belief that it was my responsibility to do everything I could to ensure the job was done well.
- I now realize that not only do I have limitations I need to take into account, but that my competency does not determine everything I do, and in fact can limit the development of other people’s competency. I have realized that I have a core passion and that I when I focus my time and energy on that there are others who can grow from my competencies and passion in a way that many can contribute to a job well done.
- I had a rather narrow-minded view that if I didn’t enjoy doing something it was probably something most people didn’t enjoy doing so it would be mean of me to ask someone else to do it. You may notice in this a strong martyr streak in me! Yes, I chose to do the jobs I hated because I thought no-one else would want to do them!
- I now realize that God has created a wide variety of people with limitless areas of enjoyment and what I hate may be the thing someone else delights in! It truly is a celebration of the uniqueness of individuals and the differences between people in which we all compliment each other.
- I believed that by delegating to someone I was burdening them. It made it very hard for me to ask anyone to do anything. I therefore always did it most apologetically giving plenty of space for the person to excuse themselves from a particular task. No wonder I got let down so often!
- Working at the gym of the ebio offices has taught me that being delegated to is a joy, privilege and an opportunity. It means that another person is willing to invest in me. It means that I am being trusted with responsibility that will help me to grow and expand my skills and knowledge. I now see that by not delegating well and often I am depriving others of key learning opportunities that will allow them to find their unique expression and contribution in the world.
- After my failure time and time again to delegate effectively I reached the conclusion that I could not delegate. I decided that I was just an independent worker that needed to find an environment in which I found my niche and got on with the job at hand, without having to work in a team that would involve any kind of management, leadership or delegation.
- Thanks to John Maxwell and the way his ideas are integrated in the ebio processes I am learning that I can fail forwards. My failures are not an indication of an unalterable character trait but rather opportunities for me to learn and grow. It is humbling; there is no doubt about that! But if I can find the lessons then my failures have not been failures at all but stepping stones.
- I am therefore making new choices to learn to delegate more effectively that I can be a more active team member, sharing my skills and competencies with others that we may all grow and get the job done effectively and joyfully