Control and the Art of Giving. It. Up.

How do you give up control to something you invest time, energy, blood, sweat and tears into?  Something that you consider you own?  Something that traditionally has been yours to drive and yours to move forward?

Well, the answer to this question can go a number of ways, depending on the topic.

For now, let’s focus on how this applies to the workplace.  Consider a new member is added to your team and that person is trying to find the boundaries of their role and responsibilities.  They might inadvertently (or advertently!) venture into ‘your territory’.  How about the case where you’re overworked and something is left on the floor?  Maybe someone else picks it up without you knowing and moves the ball forward.  There are other examples too, but I’m less concerned with the cause, and more concerned with the ability to let go, how to know when to do so, and how to facilitate it.

Here’re my thoughts on the matter.

Ability to let go:

Two things here that I think are the basis of what you’re really giving up, and they aren’t necessarily both required.

  • Decision Making <= who makes the decisions?
  • Delegation and Nurturing <= who ends up doing the work and how do you know if they are capable?

How to know when to give up control:

  • When you are too busy to notice that work is being done in an area that you typically work in.  That’s a sure sign of something on the floor that someone else thinks is important enough to spend their time working on it.  In fact, it’s probably for the best, because that’s less work for you in the future.
  • When you can’t hire fast enough – let other people from other departments help you out (if they are willing).
  • If you truly aren’t the owner of what you think you are.  That hard part there is probably recognizing and admitting that you’re not the owner, but this can be the case when you yourself overstep your bounds.

How to facilitate it:

  • Ask a good candidate to take something off your plate.  Don’t assume they will or can, ’cause everyone is busy with their own jobs.  But make a case for why you think they are the perfect person to do something that you can’t get to and see if you can get some help.  This is a clear case of, at a minimum, delegation, but also decision making power depending on how capable the individual is.  You don’t have to do both.  As an example, you can provide guidance around what you would do things.
  • Hire and grow your team.  Sounds easy enough, but actually quite hard to implement as it will push out the ability to give up control until that person is ‘up to speed’.  I think this applies firmly in the delegation and nurturing camp.  However, consider lengthy ramp up times and additional energy required in support.

Above all, when something happens for the best in your sphere, whether you were responsible or not, be sure to appreciate someone’s initiative for getting the job done.


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