Keep a Happy Balance and Learn to Delegate

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

“Fully empowered employees make good decisions and resolve problems.” – McKinsey & Company

            When you can’t escape the rat race, you have to take some time and ask yourself why. In my business, I often ask clients to tell me about their day. Most tell me they are so busy, they can’t get everything done in 24 hours, or they’re working nights and weekends to catch up. After much recent research, we now know that’s contraindicative to a healthy lifestyle, physical or mental. People feel trapped into doing more than they should be doing because of several key factors; labor shortage, budgets, equipment issues, a renewed 24/7 work mentality, and bosses piling on more work.

Describe Your Day           

Because people work with me to improve their lives and careers, I usually ask them to describe their day. I want to know from the time they open their eyes, until they shut off the lights at night, what exactly they are doing with time. Most frequently, people proudly go into great detail about the number of tasks that they do, how many hats they wear, and the enormity of the hours they put in. They wait for me to heap praise upon them for managing all the many balls they keep in the air. Maybe they’re good at juggling, and the work gets done, but even the best juggler knows when the show is over, and it’s time to put away the pins, hoops, and balls and go home.

What would it be like for you?

            When people decide to unravel their workday, detail by detail, it becomes clear that asking for a way to offload work has never occurred to them. Yet these same people wonder why their careers have not advanced, why their title hasn’t changed in years and. why their raises are stagnant. The next logical question goes something like this: “What would it be like for you if you could leave work at 5PM, not work weekends and nights, and have more discretionary time?”  To a person, the answer is “That would be great, but it’s just impossible.”

           Letting Go

What’s often lacking in their vocabulary is the magic “D” word, delegation. As Jack Welch has said, a manager should be spending 30% io their time in training staff. What do you suppose he meant by that? Creating a succession plan? Having a staff that can step in at the drop of a hat?  Empowering and trusting employees? Or building a workforce that worries about the day-to-day operations of the company? After all, is it the leader who fixes the copy machine, or deals with HR matters or works out the details of engineering problems? As you grow your career, you find out that stepping up means you must be less involved in ordinary business operations tasks. Why? Because you are now part of making the business strategy happen, focusing on developing staff, and in general making more essential decisions that impact the organization than you ever were. Letting go can be scary, because you are no longer “rolling up your sleeves” or clinging to your work identity.

Realize Your Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals

            As a leader, you are responsible for decisions that have impact across the entire enterprise. You can’t stay stuck at the worker bee level. If you explain your position to staff, get some commitment from them, and train them to pick up the workload, saying “No” to lower-level requests comes more easily. You can take vacation without checking your email. And you’ll be another step closer to realizing your personal mission, vision, values and goals.

“Successful investors don’t divert their money into every opportunity that comes their way, so we should be equally discerning with our time. “ – Harvard Business Review

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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.