Delegation: It’s Just Like Learning to Swim!

Every Monday evening, I have the privilege of taking my 4-year-old niece to swimming lessons.

And every Monday evening the same routine follows.

Thirty minutes before we leave, I remind her today we are going to her swimming lesson, which is quickly met with tears, pleading with me not to go, and reminding me why she hates swimming lessons.

Quickly, I dig into my arsenal of bribing, persuasion, and my own pleading to trick her into a swimsuit, the van, and finally the pool.

It’s not long into the swimming lesson until I see a slight grin on her face, and eventually a big smile knowing she’s conquered her fears and tackled the dreaded task of putting her head under water.

As we both walk out out of the pool area with a sense of pride, one would think her fear of swimming is gone forever.

Think again.

The next Monday evening rolls around and the tearful routine resumes.

The momentary excitement has dissipated as the underwater fears roll back in.

When I ask her what scares her most about the water, she says putting her head underwater and not having the teacher hold on to her. Of course! Duh, Aunt KK.

What’s more terrifying than complete loss of control? 

Now that I can resonate with. Who can’t?

It reminds me of a favorite quote of mine.

“It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear . . . . It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.” – Marilyn Ferguson

No one understands this better than my niece on Monday evenings.

Yet as we grow up the illusion of control continues to plague us both personally and professionally. 

As I meet with teams and leaders, the topic of delegation often comes up, and I find that it’s not so much the release of tangible work that keeps leaders up at night but rather the release of inward control. 

Those moments when we LET GO, we find ourselves under water, without total control over our emails, project lists or lengthy to do lists.

So, now what?  We sink or swim.

The hardest part isn’t knowing what tasks you should delegate but instead the actual loss of control remains the struggle.

Every Monday I am finding more and more inspiration in my 4-year-old niece, who through tears and sheer willpower finds a way to release more and more control by simply letting go.

It’s this letting go which proves so powerful, allowing yourself to swim to freedom, resisting the urge to hold onto those tasks and projects.

You might feel like you aren’t gaining any ground (as I do every Monday night) but eventually I know one day I’ll look over as she’s racing towards the pool yelling, “CANNON BALL!”

Ohh, the sweet release!

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