Develop your delegating skills

Don't know what to do with the help that's offered to you? Be an expert at effectively delegating.

By Cherie DeLory

The problems with doing it all

You've heard the adage; a woman's work is never done. Have you taken multitasking to new heights? If it's not slaving through a day at the office or doing chores at home, it's driving the kids to hockey practice, grabbing groceries or squeezing in an overdue haircut.

Some of us are really good at doing it all on our own, never asking or accepting help from others. Even so, this "superwoman phenomenon" can quickly burgeon out of control. With so many women placing such unrealistic expectations on themselves it's only a matter of time before they start to feel overwhelmed and hit their breaking points.

Emily Axelrod, a social worker and co-author of You Don't Have to Do It Alone: How to Involve Others to Get Things Done (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004), says that one of the lasting gains of involving others in your work is "the emotional support that comes when responsibility is shared. When you have someone to share responsibility or commiserate with or share your concerns, you don't feel so alone," says Axelrod.

The problems with doing it all
While there are many benefits to be had by delegating, Annette Bot, a social worker at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, says that many women don't even consider delegating as an option, even as they take on increasing duties. "Patterns of behaviour become established and they just keep doing what they've always been used to doing," notes Bot. "They keep adding on more and more tasks, not stopping to think about what's happening; and the pace that they are carrying on."

Axelrod explains that delegating or asking for help is a learned behaviour and a skill. She admits that it's easier for those raised in environments where, for example, the mother delegated tasks such as dividing household chores among the family, to adopt the same behaviour in their adult lives.

For others, delegating is not so easy. Depending on your personality, deterrents to accepting help could be: feelings of inadequacy, lack of trust that the job will be completed adequately, or simply not wanting to take the time to explain the details of the task.

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