Are you getting too involved?

I’ve had some interesting conversations recently about trust, delegation and involvement.

Specifically how being too involved can get in the way of your productivity. Here are 5 signs that you might be over-involved:

  • You constantly have a backlog of unread or part-read emails you never get round to reading – most of which you’ve been CC’ed into.
  • You get asked a lot of quick questions ‘just to check’.
  • You get invited to far more meetings than you can actually attend.
  • You are the founder of a team/organisation that has grown over time and as CEO you still have the info@ email address coming directly to you.
  • A large proportion of your to-do list consists of requests from others and you struggle to ‘find time’ for your own work.

Of course we all have to work with and around other people’s timings and priorities. Of course we all do things for others that mean more to them than it does to us. And yes, there will always be people who continue to CC you when you ask them not to. But if we say yes to every invitation to get involved, we’ll quickly find ourselves over-involved.

You see, while workshop participants have been telling me about the pain of being copied into too many emails and invited into too many meetings I’ve also noticed that sometimes it’s our own curiosity, responsiveness, desire to help or temptation to control that causes us to get over-involved.

Like the CEO I spoke to last week who was still holding onto the @info email address because he was “being nosy!” Or the manager who couldn’t help overhearing his team’s conversations and offering his thoughts and experience. Or the various customer and colleague requests I’ve had recently which have gotten resolved without my involvement, because I’ve not been able to respond straight away.

The past few weeks have been a real eye-opener for me. Being on the road, with almost back to back travel and workshops, and calls lined up on the days when I’m not travelling, I’ve simply not been as responsive as I’d like to be! But far from things falling apart, I’ve witnessed something surprising:

When I’ve been less responsive, I’ve actually come back to less work!

  • People asking ‘what do you think?’ decided they didn’t really need to know what I thought after all.
  • Other questions found answers elsewhere in my absence.
  • Panicking clients were beautifully reassured and served by my more than capable team mates without my involvement/interference.
  • Emergencies turned out not to be emergencies and disappeared.
  • Changes to plans continued to change and had stabilised by the time I picked up the conversation, which meant that I just had to respond to the last one, rather than get involved in all the back and forth.
  • Others made decisions in my absence and did a stellar job.
  • Discussions in FB groups happened without me and my ego survived just fine!

Most of all I learned that trusting other people to do what they can do meant that I was free to do what only I could do, which is my go-to definition of delegation.

So if you think you might be a little too involved for your own good, here are three ways to be less involved and more productive as a result:

1. Delegate decisions, not tasks

Need an event organising? A problem solving or a project scoping out? Consider delegating the decision, project or outcome, rather than the individual tasks. Delegating tasks is the perfect breeding ground for micro-management, and means that the bulk of the work – the thinking and the decision-making – still lies with you. You’ll likely find yourself being drawn into ‘just checking’ questions and ‘FYI’ conversations, and there’s a high chance you could become the bottleneck in the project. Instead, when you delegate the decision, you hand over the responsibility of what needs to be achieved, and give the freedom, within the parameters you outline, to figure it out and get it done.

2. Slow down your response

Not every ‘urgent’ email requires an urgent reply. If things are changing rapidly and likely to keep changing, consider when it might be appropriate to let the dust settle first before responding, rather than dive straight into the fray. It’s amazing how many questions change or even resolve themselves given some time to breathe.

3. Experiment with not replying at all.

If you’ve become the office Google, a little bit of selective non-response – or even a straight-forward ‘no’ – may help to reeducate your colleagues and readjust their expectations. As human beings we tend to default to the path of least resistance. If you make it harder for them to get their answers from you, they may be encouraged to explore alternatives.

Over to you. Which ones of these will you try? What strategies, ideas or comments would you add? Let me know in the comments box below.

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