Delegation, At Home or At Work, It’s Not a Bad Word.

“Sometimes you just have to be willing to delegate and not feel like you’re the only one with the answer”. – Ronald D. Moore

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

            This summer has been quite a learning experience when it comes to delegation. Having an elderly, incontinent parent and a post-surgical husband under the same roof are teaching experiences like none other. We women often think we can do it all, do it perfectly and do it by ourselves. With the responsibility of two dependent people as well as running a business, I was driven to admit, I needed some help. The lawn needed mowing, the garden needed weeding, the laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping had to be done. Who was there to do it all? Only me.

            As the grass grew higher, the hedges became untidy, the weeds took over the garden, the dishes and laundry piled up the dust in the house accumulated, and the pantry shelves emptied out, I was bitterly forced to face reality and come to grips with finding some assistance. I had no idea how to begin to look. We hadn’t had a lawn mowing service or cleaning service in years. Finding landscapers in July was like panning for gold. And a lot of it turned out to be fool’s gold. I literally had to flag down a landscaper’s truck in the neighborhood and beg the owner to take care of our lawn.

            When looking for a garden service, I felt like Rip Van Winkle awakening to find that pulling weeds can be a far more lucrative occupation than working at Wendy’s.  The price of cleaning my house became an opportunity to conserve on gas, food, and utilities. We sat in almost complete darkness “feasting” on Chinese noodles to watch TV at night. I was thankful that someone thought to invent Instacart and thank goodness for Amazon. We wouldn’t have had the essentials without them. I was thankful that our dry cleaner had a laundry service – pick up, wash, fold and deliver. A dream come true! Regardless of the sacrifices, to preserve some semblance of sanity, I had to learn to delegate.

            It’s interesting to note that we’ve all heard how important it is to delegate out tasks that are not core competencies.  All the business journals and self-help books say you can be more productive when you delegate. I work with my clients to help them learn to delegate their onerous workloads, and it’s not always intuitive. People in general and women in particular have a desire to “do it all”. It’s only when burnout approaches and desperation kicks in do we realize how critical delegation is to our general well-being and even our mood. Are people who are overwhelmed with responsibility happy?  They may kid themselves into thinking so, but I’ll bet their blood pressure tells a different story.

            We can talk forever about what to delegate and when, and the good it does our mental, and physical health. But it doesn’t seem to be real until a major crisis hits. Then we are in crisis management mode. Do we even know what our fallback plan is, or do we think we can just wing it, and all will work out? Why do we wait until we have no other alternative before we will give up control of tasks that need to be done, but not necessarily by ourselves?

            The key is to ask yourself, “what would I tell my best friend to do if they were in this same situation?” Would you tell your friend to “suck it up and get it done”. We’re not the Navy Seals, we are mere humans, and humans are social beings, need to rely on others to make it through before tasks pile up and we are buried underneath them.

            It doesn’t matter if we are overwhelmed at work or at home. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign we know how to navigate life’s challenges.

“It’s extremely instructive to realize that you cannot do everything. You need to delegate, to find experts, to consult with them.” – Karyn Kusama

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Mary T. O'Sullivan

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, Member, International Coaching Federation, Society of Human Resource Management. Candidate, Master’s Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM. Mary O’Sullivan has over 30 years experience in the aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking, through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth. In additional, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New York for secondary education, and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area.