As a leader, there are times when you must accomplish more than ever before. One option is to just do it, adding to your already packed workload. Another option is to allow others to step up too, by taking on greater responsibilities, widening their perspectives, learning new things and doing a bit more. Choosing the latter is a nice option, but it isn’t necessarily easy. Here’s what you need to do: take the time to delegate well.
In previous blogs, I have described what I learn about leading from training my dogs in agility. This blog is about insights I have gained (in agility) about what it means as a leader as work expands beyond your normal capacity to cope.
Here is my agility situation….In agility, I am ready to compete at a higher level. This means I have to step up my handling, do more training, and do more trialing–all while keeping my “day job”. What I realized is the impact this has on my young dog and what I need to do to bring her along. While the activity is different, I’ll bet you face similar challenges.
1) When you take on too much, your dark sides begin to show and they will “leak” out.
Your organization is a system, and a change in one part impacts the other parts. So, if you change something, it will impact others. For better or worse depends on you.
In agility, I noticed that when I was raising my expectations on myself, my “dark sides” began to show. I got more short-tempered, I wasn’t enjoying it as much, and I had less patience with the mistakes of my dog partner. This is typical of all leaders, by the way, not just dog leaders. Don’t under-estimate how your added stress “leaks” to your team, and how your team’s extra stress “leaks” beyond their teams.
2) It is important to take extra time for self-management and taking the pressure off.
There is an old adage I heard once that goes like this: Meditate for one hour a day unless it is really busy; then meditate for two. Paradoxically, when we are stressed by workloads and new learning, we tend to try to work longer hours, taking time away from those things we love outside of work that provide us the energy, motivation and rest that we need to function at our best. But research shows there is a point where your efficiency and quality decrease at a greater level than the extra hours you are working (and I seem to remember that being about 55+ hours of work in one week). So, whether you meditate or not, assure you take the time off work, even if you feel you can’t, to recharge.
In my case, I paradoxically took time off of agility trialing, to give myself and my dog a little break from that pressure as we worked on upping our game. Believe me, I felt like I was falling behind. But the pressure of trialing and learning was too much for both of us. It showed in both of our performance. At work, sometimes something has to give. You and your staff must prioritize what that is. Taking the time to learn something new but taking pressure off while you do it is really helpful. I also learned…
3) You do not need to figure it all out, all at once, all by yourself.
I also learned being out of my comfort zone and having more to do meant I needed support….and I could rely on my mentors. They reminded me that I did not have to figure it all out, all at once, and all by myself. They helped me widen my lens and be more creative about how I train, what I train, and how I trial in agility. I asked for feedback sometimes, but I also just talked over my plans, and “felt” their trust in me. I could check my expectations, both of myself and my partner. This led to my last learning…
4) Others need your trust. Give it to them.
My young dog needed my support and continued mentoring, but I had to trust her to do what I had trained her to do. This meant trusting she knew her “job” and stop helping her so much. I really could do less for her and she could step up her game. And she has. We are gelling into the team I wanted us to be now.
These same lessons apply in or out of the world of dog training. Send me a note – I’d be honored to partner with you as you learn you own leadership lessons.