How to Delegate Even If You're Super Type A

6 Ways Type As Can Finally Delegate at Work
by Aylin Cook
Photos Bloguettes | February 02, 2017
Even if you're an incredibly talented whiz kid who knows how to do everything right (real talk: you're not), everybody's gotta delegate sometimes. 
I’ve created a few content marketing programs for startups, which usually means I start solo, design all writing and editing processes, and do everything from high-level strategy to social media posting. And yet, while it’s exciting to give away some of those responsibilities when we hire new people, I find myself reluctant to delegate the very tasks I bemoaned when I had to do everything.

This is usually due to my:

  • Impatience: "I can do it faster," and "It’ll take me forever to train them."
  • Unwillingness to let go: They just won’t do it right (AKA the way I do it) so why bother?
  • Subconscious fear: They’ll do it better than me and I’ll suddenly be demoted and all my responsibilities will get taken away from me and given to the person I delegated to.
(Yes, that last one is incredibly embarrassing, but to be honest, my Type A tendencies link back to some old insecurities. While I’ve overcome them for the most part, they can flare up when I have to let go of something I think of as ‘mine.’)

So, here’s what I had to learn to release my clutches on tasks, and how you can do it in a way that makes everyone feel empowered.

3 Reasons Why You Must Delegate, Whether You Like It or Not 

1. When We All Look Good...We All Look Good

Once, when I expressed to a former boss and mentor that I was reluctant to delegate a project to a junior member of our team, she said something I’ll always remember: “A high tide raises all boats.” Meaning, when a team member looks good, everyone looks good.

It was a huge revelation. Rather than worry that the executives wouldn’t recognize me if I delegated aspects of my job, I realized that when members of my team stand out too, we look like a high-functioning, collaborative entity. And that reflects well on all of us.

2. You’re Driven, Right? Well, You Can’t Take on More Responsibility Unless You Let Some Stuff Go

She also showed me that I couldn’t rise through the ranks if I did everything myself. In order to take on more senior roles, I had to trust my team enough to empower them, so I could embrace strategy over logistics.

3. Because an Empowered Team Has Your Back

And, most importantly, my team felt empowered when I delegated projects to them because it showed them that I thought they were trustworthy and intelligent. When you spread the love (or work), your team becomes eager to take on more and share their ideas…which are usually awesome.

The 6-Step Method Every Type A Can Use to Delegate

1. Overcome Your Fears

It’s true that delegating tasks will take longer initially—you’ll have to train and answer follow-up questions—but you didn’t start your job with the intention of staying in the same position and salary. You will never grow if you keep doing the exact same things day in and day out. And you can’t add new projects without letting go of the old (unless you want to stop sleeping).

Also, know that your position won’t be usurped if you delegate. Delegating shows that you work smartly and you’re interested in the growth of your coworkers—and that you don’t try to hog all the praise. Now that’s leadership material.

2. Choose the Right Candidate

Set everyone up for success by matching the task to their skill set and interests. The super creative guy who rushes through details maybe shouldn’t take on a super detail-oriented project meant for a slower worker, unless you feel he’ll learn a valuable skill from it.  

3. Create a Reference Guide

Like delegation itself, this step means you’ll spend time upfront but save way more in the long run. So create a reference doc—with screenshots if applicable—to be a go-to quick guide before handing off the task. It’ll make it much easier for them to get started (meaning fewer questions). Plus they can easily hand down that information once they can delegate it to the next person. Make sure to make it a living document to add new processes.

4. Oversee, but Don’t Micromanage

If you’re ultimately held responsible for the outcome, you want to make both you and your team look good. So while micromanaging is never effective, you should still do a thorough once-over before sending anything out into the world.

For instance, I delegate blog posting to one of my teammates…but before they publish, I take a look at them to ensure pictures look good, posts are tagged correctly, the meta description and excerpt work, etc. I don’t have to spend the time setting up the blog myself, but I also don’t let anything go out unless it’s perfect. (And, to be honest, I usually have someone else give my work a once-over; especially with writing, I need a second set of eyes.)

Tell your team member you’re not performing the final review because you don’t trust them, but because everyone needs another person to check their work.

5. Sandwich Constructive Criticism Between Praise

If you do see errors in their work, set up a check-in on the task and ask if they’re having trouble and what they’d like you to go over again. And remember the tenets of constructive criticism: Start with what they’re doing right, gently go over the thing that needs to change, and end on a positive note.

Harsh criticism instills fear, not respect. And it definitely doesn’t inspire your team to take on more tasks from you.

6. Accept That Mistakes Happen

There will be bumps along the road, but that’s not a good enough reason to snatch the responsibility back (unless there's a huge discrepancy between expectation and what they’re producing). Instead, set up another check-in to reassure them because they’re probably feeling pretty bad about making a mistake. It helps to share how you messed up that task at first or what was hard for you to learn. Ask how you can help and what they need from you, such as another walk through of the task.

You can only do so much at work, so at some point, if you want to move up in your career, you have to delegate aspects of your job, even if you think you're the only one who will do it “right.” In order to grow, I’ve had to release my grip on certain things I felt protective over. By setting up my team members for success and retaining oversight without micromanaging, delegation went smoothly—even for this Type A.

Are you Type A too? What are some techniques you've used to let go of the little stuff at the office?