Becoming dispensable

One of the most successful executives I’ve known, the European President of an international software consultancy, has a simple philosophy at the heart of his success, which also gives him a sound attitude about work life balance.

Whatever his role as he climbed the corporate ladder he set out to make himself dispensable.

This is precisely the opposite of what many try to do. People often seek to make themselves indispensable, believing that their value, future and security depends on it.

His view is that if you can fulfil a mission and leave others responsible, new challenges and opportunities will present themselves.

Fundamentally he achieved this with shrewd appointments, succession planning and above all else, continually seeking to delegate. Successful delegation meant that his mind was on the future and strategic vision, which is precisely where it should be for any Director.

Countless times I’ve met people whose work life balance is suffering because they’ve not mastered the art of delegation. They think they delegate but they don’t. They may allocate tasks and responsibilities but they don’t let go in their minds, which is where it counts. In many cases this means that they are forever checking progress, providing input, directing from a distance – and often, unbeknown to them, stifling the innovation and initiative of those to whom they think they’ve delegated.

The most rapid route to a better work life balance, and one that gives others opportunity, is to delegate more than you think you can.

To achieve this you need to think about what blocks or prevents you delegating. The most common myth is that there isn’t anyone you can safely delegate to. More often than not this view relates to an unconscious need to retain control, and a belief that only you can do it right.

Delegation means trusting people to do it, and giving them the space to learn to do it their way, without someone looking over their shoulder, no matter how subtly. It also means learning how to coach, where you don’t seek to solve problems, chase and direct, but create the situation for others to experience the consequence of their own actions and decisions.

So for the New Year, rather than just thinking about what you will be doing, give some consideration to what you can stop doing and what you can do to make yourself dispensable.


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