Chapter 2: YOU SUCK AT DELEGATING: How to Delegate Your Mindset
“Unbelievable!” I muttered to myself. “Why can’t you just do the job the right way—this is why I hired you!”
It was during the first few years at Dreamshine, and I was frustrated that my program manager couldn’t read my mind. He should just know from the job description, right? I was awesome at reading his mind, I thought. We were wasting time, and I was getting really irritated.
“Just let me handle this,” I said, grabbing a stack of papers. My line of thinking was: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Then it dawned on me, what if he can’t read my mind? What if I can’t read his mind? What if I actually got the courage to sit down with him and lay all the cards on the table? We might come up with a system to figure out and solve the problem.
Sound familiar? Good delegation skills are a must for a strong leader. But before delegating tasks, you need to delegate your mindset, which I’ll teach you in this chapter.
I was the problem—and also the solution.
The story above illustrates how my assumptions about delegation were part of a fixed mindset I’d learned from the business world. Immediately hire someone to do everything you don’t want to do, or you think you shouldn’t be doing.
Because of this mindset I went through several assistantsI thought just weren’t good enough. I was so busy delegating the “how” instead of the “why.” In other words: Delegating effectively means delegating your mindset instead of general tasks to an employee or staff member.
Your team members have to understand why their role is so important in the organization and how it affects clients and other staff members.
Bill Cortright was one of the other awesome speakers at a recent Minutes with Millionaires event, and his son—we’ll call him Super Millennial—illustrated why it’s so important to delegate He’d learn to work at his dad’s company, but Bill insisted he apply for a job at Best Buy and learn everything from the ground up.
When Super Millennial began working there, he received an employee handbook, and was asked what he would do if he faced a problem he couldn’t fix. “I’d think of ways to solve the problem,” he said. The response was: “No! That’s the wrong answer. You should immediately go to your manager.”
I was blown away.
It’s the opposite of what we do at Dreamshine. It fails to create leaders—it creates robots that malfunction when something goes out of order. It ignores unity among team members. Why not teach them to problem-solve and put fires out? This may take more time up-front—but it also pays off bigtime.
How To Delegate Mindset
It all starts with monkeys. That’s right, freakin’ monkeys. 🐵 🙈 🙉 🙊
In the One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson asks us to imagine we’re surrounded by a bunch of monkeys as we go through our work days.
Your team members come by your desk with all kinds of monkeys on their shoulders. Then you’re dealing with your monkeys while their monkeys jump onto your desk. What a mess. Teach them to take their monkeys with them when they leave and, better yet, they should grab some of your monkeys to take with them, too.
If they come in and say, “Mark you have a problem,” the verbiage must change. “We are a team; we have a problem. Don’t give me your freaking monkey.” Already, you’re delegating your mindset by retraining their mindset: this is not a you, me problem. This is a team problem.
So the next time your team members come by with their problems, follow these 5 steps:
Ask them to see the monkeys jumping off their shoulders onto your desk.
This is when you ask just what the problem is.
Walk them through how to take the monkeys back with them—solve the problem—and explain the “why” behind your reasoning. You’re delegating your mindset.
When they return with the monkeys, still trying to fix an issue, ask them for the three best solutions. Ask them to choose the top solution and explain their thinking, allowing them plenty of time to really think about on their own, taking the monkeys with them.
If they return with what you think is the wrong solution, that’s OK. Praise them for taking action. Coach them, and explain why. Ultimately, they’ll see your mindset and will make decisions based on your company’s values.
Before you know it you’ll have conversations with all of your team members where they are telling you about a problem that they’ve already fixed. Why? Because you took the time to delegate your mindset.
A game of horseshoes and a teachable moment.
When Nate was a new employee at Dreamshine, he was responsible for setting up a game of horseshoes, which included measuring the distance between the targets. When Nate came to me and said, “You have a problem,” I immediately corrected him: “No, Nate, we have a problem.”
Turned out he’d forgotten to buy a tape measure—and was convinced we’d have to cancel the event. I explained to Nate that the measurement didn’t have to be 100% precise. He could use his foot instead of a tape measure. And the games went on.
This teaching moment allowed me to help Nate solve the problem as I delegated my mindset.
A few years later, Nate had been organizing an outing for our clients when he learned a member of our staff was in the hospital. Nate decided to take the group to the hospital instead, buying her flowers on the company card. “Oh my gosh!” he reported back to me. “You should have seen her smile. Her mom was there. She was so happy.” My response: “That is freakin’ awesome.” He knew our values and my mindset and that it was OK to spend the money unauthorized. And he’d made her day.
It’s not always so easy to delegate mindset. When team members are constantly unable to make decisions, you have to ask, “Are they a good fit for our culture?” Any successful business has a culture of thinkers and problem-solvers—goodbye, freakin’ monkeys!
After I’ve delegated my mindset to team members, I use three words to remind me how to delegate tasks: trust, time and competency.
Trust: Be honest with yourself: Do you trust them with the task at hand? If so, they’ll most likely contribute to a culture of trust.
Time: It takes longer than you think for someone to really grasp a task. Gradually allow them to handle it on their own.
Competency: Can they complete the task properly? Do they understand the ins and outs?
Are they familiar with any necessary systems?
Never delegate a task to someone who’s not competent or doesn’t show signs of being competent.
When I started Dreamshine, I did everything, and one of my favorites was giving tours for potential new clients. I thought I would do it forever. But as Dreamshine grew bigger, I knew I had to delegate the task—and my mindset. I started training a team member who went on the tours alongside me, able to hear the important talking points and most common questions.
After shadowing me, I got to shadow her, and often interjected about what she’d missed or didn’t thoroughly explain. Pretty soon, though, she was giving the tours on her own.
It’s been four years since I’ve given a tour of Dreamshine, and while I miss the connection to potential clients, I’m more proud of myself and my team for learning how not to suck at delegating.
Always delegate the “why” before the “how.” Explain your purpose and your goals.
Clearly explain the tasks to team members. Don’t make assumptions.
You will never grow until you learn to let go. You can’t do everything—to get in the habit of delegating your mindset to your team members.