Transcending Tasks

Learn about the challenges of transcending tasks and how to cope with them.

You work through others

Let’s remind ourselves of our favorite equation. Your output is defined as:

The output of your team + The output of others that you influence

Now, consider both parts of that equation. Who is actually doing the work? Well, with regard to the output of your team, it’s certainly not all you. Each staff member on your team is working toward the team’s collective output. With regard to the others that you influence, those people aren’t on your team, and you might not even know the details of what exact work they’re doing! You work through others. That’s your job. It’s what effective managers do.

In the Interfacing with Humans chapter, you learned about delegation. We covered how delegation is the tool that you use to give just the right level of support for each task such that it gets done to the correct standard. In The Right Job for the Person chapter, you saw how keeping your staff in their zone of proximal development via delegation continually increases the skill of the person doing the task.

In the same chapter, you learned about autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Mapping the right tasks to the right people and delegating well contributes to autonomy and mastery. This is because your staff is doing the work in a self-guided manner of their choosing, and the work allows them to practice their skills and improve them.

Isn’t it interesting that letting go of control can be beneficial in so many ways? Your staff improves their skills by stepping up to challenging work, you increase your output, the team improves, and the company gets better. It’s a quadruple win.

So, you already know about letting go, don’t you? You might as well just skip this chapter. Or should you? Stay with us for a minute. Despite being well-versed in the tools needed to sufficiently let go of control of each individual task, it’s sometimes not as straightforward as it seems.

Dark side of delegation

In your practice as a manager so far, have you felt any of the following?

  • How stressful times such as deadlines or disasters stir a deep desire to take back delegated work and do it yourself because you know that you can do it quickly and to a high standard

  • Anxiety about the status of a delegated task, especially when it’s before or after work, and you can’t contact the person that is working on it: Has the ticket not been updated for a number of days, and you’re feeling that tight-chested panic?

  • Frustration that some work hasn’t been done to the standard you expect, but that was because you didn’t have the time to offer the right level of support: Has that frustration ever turned to anger?

  • Have any of the feelings above happened to seep into your personal life, giving you a short temper or bad mood around your friends or family when doing something that should be simple and enjoyable, such as making a coffee or picking up groceries?

It happens. The delegation has a dark side. When doing your job to a high standard involves letting go of so many tasks, you cannot escape the fact that you’re a human, and you’ll want everything to go exactly as you want it to even though this desire is impossible to satiate. The impossibility of that desire can make minor inconveniences seem like major ones.

Trusting others and your plans is challenging. You’ll doubt them, you’ll doubt yourself, and you’ll worry about every outcome. So, what can you do? Well, we’re going to take some inspiration from some ancient Stoic philosophers.

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