Michele Woodward

Michele Woodward

Getting Unstuck

Delegating, Picasso and The End Of Stress

The Art of Delegation

Posted Dec 22, 2010

So begins our conversation on delegation.

The "why" of Andrea's control freak behavior I will leave to the qualified therapists among us. I'm going to tell you how I got her to start trying - just a little - to delegate.

"Imagine," I started. "Picasso is in his studio and realizes he has three paintings to complete for buyers, but only has time to do two. He turns to his painter friend and says, 'I need a painting done by the end of the week. It needs a nature theme, and please use blue, green, white and red paint, with the blues dominant (It was Picasso's Blue Period, of course). No human forms. Think you can do that?' The other painter exclaims, 'Mais oui! Maintenant!' (He was a French painter)

"A week goes by and the French painter brings his work to Picasso. He's done exactly what Picasso asked - natural theme, blue predominant - and the painter is thrilled with his work. Picasso thunders, 'But that is no Picasso!' And the French painter replies, 'No, it's mine. It's a Monet.'"

Delegation is like that, I told Andrea. You give an assignment to someone and it might come back completely different than you anticipated. Which could be great. Because it might just come back looking like a Monet.

At that moment, I see the little light bulb go off over Andrea's head. She begins to nod. Fortunately, she views herself as a strong mentor, and we have discussed how she can fully embrace and grow her desire to mentor her team. By delegating as a mentor, then, she can give them the space to grow - and loosen her grip on the idea that there can only be one, perfect outcome (the one she envisioned at the outset).

Because we all know that the outcome we started toward is rarely the one we end up with, is it? There's always something - not enough money, or enough people. Maybe some crisis happens elsewhere that affects where we are. Leadership change. Client change. Stock market crash. All of these factors impact outcome. And the best any of us can do is hold on loosely to firm plans, and flexibly adapt in the moment.

Which is another reason delegation works so well - Andrea can empower her people to hand the day-to-day ups and downs of project management while she focuses on the big picture growth of her firm. Which is her real priority.

By the end of our meeting, Andrea had made a huge Aha! realization: Giving your people the space and the room to create their own Monets - within the frame that you as their boss set, of course - can be one way to reduce your stress as well as your managerial burden and free up your time to craft your own work of art.