In the Part 2, we got philosophical with a framework which provides us a way to yield complete control and gain fulfilment in influencing things. Now, we’re going to successfully clone ourselves.
Have you ever said to yourself “if I could just clone myself, I would …”. This is a borderline narcissistic user-story. A less harsh characterization would be to say that this user-story expresses a desire for a state in which all the “things” that you are passionate about, succeed. But the limiting feature is the implication that you and only can champion these important “things”.
As a leader, a significant part of your job is bringing in new ideas, technologies and initiatives to your team, division, or company because it creates conditions to foster the thriving of innovation and people.
“Managers tell you where you are, and leaders tell you where you’re going” — Michael Lopp (The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well)
This nugget of wisdom really speaks to me, and you’ll have to admit that this is hard to do without being able to look beyond the horizon. Often, there is a good amount of “front-end” work involved. You may do some of this front-end work yourself or you may enlist the help from your team for initial studies or prototypes, but you’ll likely be managing it (meetings, discussions, presentations, reviews). It’s a lot of work and the type of work that is very nebulous and really requires focus and flow.
If your idea is high intensity and high impact, it likely must get through multiple points of resistance or acceptance. Unless you have a Steve Jobs-like worship-level authority, it is unlikely that you can just make things happen at the snap of a finger. Garnering support for the “thing” you are passionate about whether it be budgetary or driving a change in priorities, takes a lot of effort. Now, if you have three such “things”, it will be downright exhausting.
If you really care about these “things”, the only way out is to clone yourself, right? Kind of.
Instead of expending all that effort, and probably mostly failing on all fronts, you should:
seek a highly-motivated person.
You know who these people are. They are energetic, curious, demonstrate technical courage, vision, tenacity and when they get on board with an idea, they “believe” in it. Just like you, they believe in the “thing”. They are not your clone, or even a proxy. They are independent thinkers (hopefully smarter than you) who happen to believe in you and your ideas (that’s a choice they have made based on observation and trust).
They trust you. You trust them, so entrust them with owning this “thing” you are passionate about. They won’t approach the front-end work in the same way you would (again, they are not you), but they will be great ambassadors of you vision. Sometimes it takes a small army of ambassadors of a vision to overcome the points of resistance to get approval/funding/priority.
You have successfully mutated the trichotomy of control. You’re now in influencing mode. Influencing take a lot less effort than doing. Now repeat this for the next “thing” on your list, mutating the trichotomy of control as if it were second nature. In fact, saying “mutating the trichotomy of control” three times in a row becomes surprisingly simple.
Before you declare victory, you must do the following. Clearly communicate this shift of responsibility. This is a process, not a broadcast email.
Typically, the “thing” you have delegated has a lot of connection points both within your team and outside of it. At times, communications will come your way in regard to this topic. You must use these opportunities to steer those connection points to the delegate. Remember, they are now driving the “thing” and you’re there to influence and support. A concrete example of such an action is to no longer attend meetings where the “thing” is discussed.
True delegation removes you from the high-bandwidth communication on this topic. Don’t become the chokepoint and don’t continue to send signals that you are in control. It must be clear to all involved that you are not the responsible party. In fact, you may not even be accountable (in the event that the delegate is someone outside of your immediate organization). More on that “outside” part in a later post.
This part of the “cloning” can be considered follow-through because it continues to re-enforce the change in role.
Assuming you have successfully followed-through, you’re now left with the one “thing” you’re pushing on. This is the most important thing and needs your full attention for now. You check in regularly and ask your trusted delegates what help they need and you take care of it. It turns out a bunch of fires ensued, but they already handled it. You are none the wiser (which is great because you’ve put that fire out before, nothing to learn covering that ground again).
This is a much more sustainable and fulfilling state than the exhausting reality of maintaining control on all fronts. As a result you’re also able to get much deeper into your main initiative.
Some really important things happened when you delegated these new initiatives which we’ll explore in a future part of this series.
Lastly, it is worth noting that there are conditions to this process successfully taking place. For example, the need to identify a “highly-motivated person”. Such a person needs to be available. Either that person already exists in your team, or they need to be hired, or maybe developed. What other choices exist? We’ll explore that in the next part.