On Delegation (no, it does not mean what you think it means)

‘Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.’ This quote from Einstein is a stark reminder that it is our job to build on our strengths, and not to correct our weaknesses. If we focus our entire life on compensating our weaknesses, we will end up with a large set of strong weaknesses: this is a recipe for mediocrity, not for success.

In order to spend our life building on our strengths, it is key to master the art of delegation. Delegation ensures that important pieces of work get done by others, while you can focus your time and energy on doing valuable things which you love to do and consequently are very good at doing as well.

A common mistake is to think that delegation means ‘giving my work to someone else.’ This is not delegation, but management. Real delegation is something else: it means giving something which is work for you, to someone else to whom it is play. It is the road to High Performance in teams.

As an example, working with SAP used to be a continuous exercise in frustration for me. However, I soon realized that I had a colleague who loved working with SAP (she was very good at it) and could do in two happy minutes what took me two dreadful hours. Our little delegation deal was quickly made. I gave her my SAP work and in return I received a cool spreadsheet building task from her (giving me an opportunity to channel my inner engineering geek on a rainy Sunday afternoon). We were both happy, because we could play to our strengths.

Therefore, next time you run into difficult work, ask yourself who might love to do what you hate to do. The answer might surprise you, because we sometimes forget that no human brain is wired alike, resulting in very diverse work preferences: that is why people choose freely to become accountants, dentists or even engineers…

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