Why you should stop trying to do everything on your own

Letting go of activities that can be done by others can be liberating in many ways

Letting go

We like to believe that our personal efforts are critical and indispensable to the organisation. Effective delegation is one of the most powerful tools for improving productivity. Letting go of activities that don’t need our specific skills and that can be done by others, is the single most important act that can liberate us from drudgery. Today’s world hinges on collaboration.


Even Batman had Robin

I’m reminded of the story of the monkey who puts his hand into a narrow necked jar full of peanuts. The greedy chimp grabs as much as he can and finds out that he can’t get his hand out with a fist full of nuts. He won’t give up what’s in his hand and goes berserk trying to get rid of the jar.

We are like the monkey when it comes to letting go of tasks and delegating them down the line. We all like to think that we are indispensable, that no one else can do the job like us. Out of fear of finding out the contrary, we refuse to delegate. Productivity drops as a consequence; stress and frustration increases.

Failure to delegate is a reflection of lack of self-confidence. Delegation does not mean abandoning responsibility.

If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”

John C Maxwell

You can’t have all the needed expertise in today’s world

1We live in a complex world. No single person can be an expert in anything but a narrow domain. Specialisation in medical practice has reached a point where doctors themselves are unaware of all that is available. Collaboration and team work is the route to success in modern healthcare.

The doctor used to be seen as the centre of the medical universe. All other providers revolved around the life giving sun of the doctor. Things have changed. The physician is still important but is more like a major planet. The patient has moved to the centre with all others serving to ensure that the best possible care is given.

Perform only tasks that make full use your skill level and delegate all others. The physician’s focus should be on delivering clinical services. She should not be bogged down attending to matters that can be handled by a lesser qualified but well-trained assistant. A mid-level provider may be a very cost-effective strategy to boost practice volume and level of service.

There may be others who can do things better than you

2This can be bruising to the ego but one of the keys to effective delegation is the knowledge that there are others who can do a task better than you. 

Push decision making to the person closest to the problem. Rule makers, managers, bureaucrats, and many physician executives have a very hard time with this one. Interns and registrars are often far more competent at doing bedside procedures than senior consultants. Let them decide the best way of doing these things. Don’t get in the way.

Rule makers, managers, bureaucrats, and many physician executives have a very hard time with this one. Interns and registrars are often far more competent at doing bedside procedures than senior consultants. Let them decide the best way of doing these things. Don’t get in the way.

You can’t see down all avenues

3As a corollary of the previous statement, you must also appreciate that those closest to a task are also better situated to look down the road of consequences and events. Listen to them. You will end up looking far smarter. 30,000 foot views are wholly different from those of the runway. Both are necessary, complementary.

Be the master of your time

4From CEOs to house-keeping staff, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. We all speak of “quality time”: guarded period where we can spend time doing things that will deliver the greatest value. Quality time will be available only when we ensure that we are not frittering away our quota doing things that are not meaningful. Avoid busy work and resist the temptation to make it look like you are working at something.

You will demotivate those working under you

5People expect to be valued for their contributions. They expect to be part of a group where each member performs a unique role. If you do everything yourself, those who work with you will see themselves as mere tools, manipulated to suit the needs and ambitions of the boss.


VIDEO: Delegation

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