When in Management, Learning to Let Go: The Struggle is Real

In an effort to get back to blogging on the regular (OK, to get there at all), I’m holding myself to Monday posts because then I can also delay working on other things on Mondays AND get something done I’d like to actually do! Voila!


I am now in my third year as the bosslady and I can finally say that *I* am no longer the only one responsible for all of the ideas and I have more allies on the path to progress. I am learning the fine art of delegation. I am also learning to fight the urge to control everything. For me, these two things are related.

Delegation gets a lot easier when there are great people whom you can delegate to. If you don’t have that, you can often feel like the success or failure of the entire place is on your back. So, you keep the control. However, even if your perception is that no one can do it as good as you can, once you are in a position of authority you should delegate. Even if your confidence in someone is lacking, they may surprise you and you gave them the chance. More times than not, a doable task or project will be handled OK by someone (even if not done quite as well as you would have done it yourself.) Delegation can be hard, but once you stop and free yourself up to spend time thinking about the bigger picture and plotting a path for the whole organization, you see the real value.

Over the past two and half years, I’ve been so stressed trying to do my job and pieces of others’ jobs, while also envisioning new positions and moving the whole organization forward with the great, existing staff. Now, with three new people added to the mix, it’s all starting to come together. Some days I actually have time to think about the future and plan for it and chart out our course. But, only because I’ve been able to let go of some of the control.

It’s hard when you are a Type A person who wants things to be perfect to let go of the control of whole parts of your organization. It helps in the letting go if you work with great, knowledgeable, people (I do!). But, more than just having too much on my plate, the hardest part of letting go was really just because I am a control freak.

That’s right. I. Am. A. Control. Freak. Any of my fellow library directors feel my pain?

If you, my friends, are also in this boat, say it with me: I do not have to control everything. I can let it go. I can trust others to do their best work. Now, if you have fabulous colleagues whom you know will always hit it out of the park, that does not actually mean that giving up the control is easy. Sometimes, you have to pick your battles and decide what you definitely need to still hold on to and then what you can delegate to others. I think it is especially hard to give up control in areas of work where you used to have sole focus or things you know that you are really good at. For example, I’ve always coordinated and worked in library instruction and information literacy. I can’t do it on the level I once did and also run the library, but it’s hard for me to let go of those responsibilities fully when I know this is an area of growth for us. So, I’m holding on to much of the responsibility in that area for a while. But, in areas of marketing and outreach, website design, and the administration of all of the public service areas, I’ve managed to turn all of that over and it’s been fabulous. It is really great to watch  your library staff run with their ideas, but still use you as a sounding board when they need to.

Now, a note to those who feel like maybe their boss is a control freak? Or maybe you just want to be more involved or have more responsibility? It doesn’t hurt to ask, but tread carefully. Your boss may think that something is clearly on his or her responsibility or there may be history behind their controlling behaviors. Most of us just really want things to go well and, therefore, we do what we know. Often, that means we just get it done and do it well.

So, as we start the month of December and wrap up this year (and for those of us in academia, come close to wrapping up our semesters), here are my tips for delegating and giving up some control. Maybe a new year’s resolution?

1. Give up sitting in meetings on that committee where you are really adding no value but you were on it because you were new/the boss/the department head. Believe that others can get the work done and will give you a head’s up when they can’t.

2. Let your people do their thing and trust that the organization is working. Or, reorganize it so that it does. Don’t try and be everyone’s supervisor and task master.

3. If you think someone in your organization cannot do something so you’ll just do it yourself, get them the training they need.

4. If there are projects where you feel like you have to stay in the know, can you utilize a monthly report (or reporting schedule) instead of being directly involved?

5. Let someone else have a spot on that campus/organizational committee where they just asked the library director to be on it for informational purposes. Someone else can bring the information back to you and you can have your time back.


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