The first definition (“done in the way YOU would do it”) is so rigid that it is unlikely you’ll ever be able to delegate anything at all: nobody will ever manage to do things exactly like you do them! Besides, nobody in their right mind would even try to comply with that notion. At the end of the day, a task needs to create a result that corresponds with the expectations. Clearly defining the result and leaving the path to achieving it open will be appreciated by whoever is charged with that task, and it might actually surprise you how other people achieve those results in ways you would never have thought of.
That doesn’t mean you give up your control over the product or service supplied. If you focus on the result rather than a particular way to achieve it, your peace of mind will be satisfied and there is no need to question the path that led to this result. If, however, you prescribe the exact method to get to a result, not only will you take away any initiative from the person charged with the task and frustrate them in the process, but you will also remain anxious and want to check every step of the way if things are progressing correctly.
Of course, there are situations when a specific process has to be followed to get things done right, especially where teaching, apprenticeship, learning experiences, etc. are involved. However, if you think about delegating to a co-worker who is NOT in training and knows what they are doing and are proficient in their work, there is a point to be made for dropping the requirement of “the way YOU would do it”. There is a difference between the knowledge how to do things and the procedure how to do things. Someone else can have the exact same knowledge about the task, its base materials and end result, and still come to different conclusions how to make it happen that works best for them and has similar results.
How about the idea of “done in a way that produces the results you expect”, then? Again, you might be setting yourself up for more drama than necessary, if you expect others to do things to the same standards you require for yourself. The problem in this phrase is the word “you”. It’s a positive thing to hold yourself to your own high standards in general, but you should not necessarily hold others to the same standards: the difference between “good enough for purpose” and “perfect in every way” is a purely personal one. The customer might appreciate the latter, but they will be perfectly happy with the former.
The issue here is this: can you tell if the standards you hold yourself to might not be too perfectionist? When you get a final result from a co-worker after delegating a task, can you separate YOUR standards (“perfect”) from “good enough for purpose” and then work on improving that standard in your co-worker to make future results “even better”?
Apart from the question of delegating to others, perfectionism has one huge drawback: it tends to be a time-consuming obsession! If you are in the business of only delivering perfect results that fulfil your every requirement and go far beyond expectations of anyone else, you’ll almost certainly spend a lot more time on any task than it strictly requires. Losing time on any task is bad business, never forget that!
And this leads us to the last item on the list: keeping those jobs to yourself and never trusting anyone else to produce a good enough result not only damages your own quality of life and work, it also takes opportunities for improvement and learning opportunities from your co-workers! It’s a vicious circle: if you don’t delegate you’ll never be able to delegate because you’ll never trust anyone else, and they’ll never be able to earn your trust because they never get a chance to do it.
Requiring perfectionism is often just another form of procrastination. It doesn’t really matter how a job gets done, as long as it gets done. If you are concerned about the quality of work you’ll get, you could simply start off with delegating tasks that will not bother you too much if they are done “incorrectly” (meaning: “not up to your high standards”). You must, however, stick to evaluating any results by deciding if they are “good enough for purpose” and can be improved upon in the future to approach YOUR standards, or they are “not good enough for purpose” and must be improved upon right now. Both outcomes will give you a chance to impart your way of working to the other person, and a growth opportunity for that person at the same time.
The real trick is to figure out which part of your standards is based on the expectations you have for your own work, and which part of your standards would be expected by anyone for this particular final result.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.