“I’m overwhelmed and scattered. There aren’t enough hours in the day.” Jason was animated. He continued, “Since my promotion I’m spending even less time with my wife and two kids.”

Good for my career, bad for my family

We talked. Jason told me he delivered on commitments and met deadlines. He saw his promotion as good for his career but found it was bad for his family.

He had been told he would have to delegate, but found when he did he was disappointed with the results. He decided it was too risky to delegate. He’d set a high bar for himself, which is why he was promoted, but others were like limbo dancers going under the bar.

I summed things up. “Jason, you told me you get home late and that your family gets the leftovers, that you’re an overachiever while others aren’t, and you know you should delegate, but won’t.

“Sounds like you keep circling around yourself,” I said, “and I’d guess this will continue for years.”

You can complain or change—your choice

I thought to myself it’s time for my tough-love to make an appearance. I ventured forth and said, “You can complain or change. If you want to complain you can talk to a psychologist, but if you want to change, we can talk.”

That assumed, of course, that he wanted to change. I asked if he could give me one reason he would commit to change.

Jason’s expression changed when he said, “My father died from a heart attack when I was twelve. My children are eight and ten. I want to be around for them.”

We deceive ourselves. His reason to change seemed a good one, but was it?

My tough-love alter ego wasn’t buying this. I said, “You’ve been in this job for eighteen months and haven’t changed yet. I’ll ask the question again, can you give me one reason—a good reason—you will stop doing the work and delegate?”

This question clearly got weightier the longer he took to answer, “I know my problem isn’t new. Please give me some insight into what others have done to make a breakthrough.”

“My answer may sound overly philosophical,” I said, “but it has worked for others. They moved beyond ‘it’s all about me’ to ‘it’s all about them.’ They liked people and found they got out of the prison of fixation on self by helping others.”

Reasons to delegate

After several conversations I asked Jason to come up with three points that would change his thinking about delegation. These are the bullet points he put on his cell phone and wrote down to put in his wallet.

To let go is to not control another.
To let go is to fear less and trust more.
To let go is to paint a picture of what they can become.

Jason was smart and creative. He knew good intentions weren’t enough. He’d need a reminder so he put a small rock in his shoe so that when he stood up he’d feel it and remember to check his bullet points. It took him several weeks to memorize them and to remove the rock.

He was optimistic about being able to delegate and said he’d talk to his team and would let me know how it went.

Share with others and you’re forced to follow through

A few weeks later Jason called and told me, “I took each of my reports to breakfast and told them I was committed to focusing on their career development. I shared my bullet points and we talked about what each meant to them and to me.”

Before the breakfast check came he told each one, “I will be clear in my expectations so when I delegate, you’ll be able to get good results 80 percent of the time, and the other 20 percent you’ll learn from your mistakes. That’s the way I learned. I’ve got your back. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

The proverbial “happy ending”

Soon after this happened Jason surprised his son at a little-league game―the first one he’d ever attended. In baseball parlance, Jason’s career had gone from player to player/coach.

Jason’s Takeaways:

  • Ask yourself if family and friends get what’s left over after work?
  • If they are getting left overs, what can you do differently?