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Five Tips to Fight Perfectionism and Effectively Delegate

Five Tips to Fight Perfectionism and Effectively Delegate

Linda Griffin | SmallBizLink

June 22, 2009

It’s difficult to step back and let your team do the work, opting not to roll up your sleeves and complete the task yourself.

In my first management position, I was promoted from a lead technical position and was actually more knowledgeable than many of my staff members on how to solve problems. I had to fight the urge to look over their shoulders and give advice, especially when our clients were waiting for answers.

As a card-carrying perfectionist, my tendency was to work on a project until there was absolutely nothing that could be open to interpretation and even the minutest details had been checked and re-checked.

New managers are particularly vulnerable to the perfectionist trap. They are out to prove that they deserved the promotion and feel pressured to impress their boss with outstanding solutions. When these new managers were individual contributors, they had total control over their work product, but as a manager they must depend on others who will have their own style and approach to assigned tasks.

Some managers try to control their department’s output by requiring management approval prior to any work products being released. There are several dangers in this thinking. First, it creates a bottleneck which slows down the release of your products and services or stops them totally if the manager is out of the office. Next, it reduces team productivity, initiative and morale. The team will stop coming up with new ideas if they think that the boss will just second-guess them. Finally, it increases the manager’s workload and prevents them spending adequate focus on strategic issues that need their attention.

The best way to fight the perfectionism urge is to delegate, delegate, delegate. Here are five tips to get you started:

1. Get over the fact that no one will do the task exactly as you would. Your team members have different strengths and will approach things differently. This is okay! Delegation frees you up for other tasks that require “big picture” thinking.

2. If you’re unsure of the person’s abilities, start small with one task. Don’t tell the person how to do the task. That would be direction, not delegation, but be very clear on the results that you want to achieve.

3. If needed, give them some recommendations on how to approach the task and set up a series of checkpoint meetings to discuss progress and make corrections if the person is really floundering.

4. Step back, don’t criticize and let the person do the work.

5. Provide feedback after the task is done. Discuss what was good or innovative and what could have been handled differently for better results. This will help your employee build confidence in their abilities.

I have applied these techniques many times throughout my corporate career. Practicing them has given me confidence that I could delegate important tasks and projects successfully and depend on my staff to complete them with stellar results.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you work for a boss who micro-manages or if you are a manager who is struggling with this issue.