Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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Photo of a mother and daughter spending time together

What children can teach us about delegation

Many parents have had the experience of hearing unbelievable reports about their child following a babysitting gig or an extended visit with a relative. Sometimes it doesn’t even sound like the kid we know. We’re told that…

  • our child is neat and organized (but her bedroom at home is a mess!);
  • our child likes to try new foods (at home, he is the fussiest eater in the family);
  • our child is outgoing and open (even though she is often moody at home);
  • our child likes to do new things (but at home he isn’t that interested in new experiences);
  • our child connects easily with new people (even though we’ve never seen it with our own eyes).

Our children are growing, not just on the outside, but on the inside, all the time. They are maturing faster than most parents realize and it often takes a bit of a shake-up for everyone to discover that the child is now more responsible, more communicative, more socially capable, and more adaptable than we (and even the children themselves) realize. Put in a new situation, they are able to display their true self.

The same is true at work, just in a different way. We adults are organized in groups to get thing done, with each person playing a certain role. It is all too easy to leave the boundaries static and never really explore the extent of each person’s potential by pushing those boundaries. This process of testing boundaries is the job of a leader. We need to be keenly aware of the likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses of each member of our team and constantly look for areas where we can delegate new things to them. This does not mean randomly delegating things and seeing what happens; it means very strategically giving someone a new task or a new responsibility because you believe them capable of doing it well.

Most leaders are afraid to do this too quickly or too aggressively. In my experience, most are doing it too slowly and too timidly. Most people are capable of far more than we imagine and, just like with our kids, we leaders/parents are often a few steps behind someone’s true potential.