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Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

Mowing Lawns, Habits and Delegation

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It’s been a few weeks since I have mowed a lawn. When you have a soon to be college senior doing hiswoman mowing the lawninternship but living at home, the job gets delegated. I was thinking this morning that I will be mowing again in the coming weeks — and how I go about mowing my lawn.

If I don’t say so myself, I am an expert at mowing lawns — I’ve been pushing and riding lawnmowers since I was about 8 years old. I’ve mowed many different yards, and my yard in Indianapolis hundreds of times.

And when I start to mow it, I don’t even think about it, I get on the (John Deere) mower and get started. I’ve found a pattern and an approach that works best. I mow the front and back in a very specific and particular way. I haven’t always mowed it this way; I’ve developed a preferred approach over time.

I’ve also noticed that when my wife Lori mows it, she doesn’t do it exactly how I do (in part because her Dad taught her some different strategies than I learned) — she often mows it shorter, goes in a different pattern and makes different choices. Truth be told, while I appreciate that she is mowing, I don’t think she does it quite right.

A few years ago, I taught Parker (the 21 year old) how to mow, and over the past couple years, I have taught Kelsey (my soon to be 15 year old) as well. I was amazed at how long it took me to teach them … the steps I take for granted had to be made conscious again and then explained in great detail; after all, there is a right way to mow a lawn!

I thought about all of this as I thought about mowing this morning. Then I realized this was the perfect metaphor for what we go through when we have to delegate something to someone else.

We are the expert.

We know the (right) way to do it.

We have, perhaps, forgotten what it was like to be a beginner.

All of this makes it hard to want to delegate, and hard to teach someone once we actually do.

Experience and habit are wonderful things, and they can absolutely become our enemy when it comes to successfully delegating or sharing responsibility with others. Our blind experience can also keep us from remembering the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes with learning something new.

Once Parker learned how to mow, he had a great sense of pride and accomplishment in completing the task, and the reality is, along with being helpful, one of the main reasons Kelsey wanted to learn was to feel that sense of accomplishment.

Always remember that when delegating successfully to others we are giving them a gift.

I’ve written about delegation in the recent past, including here and here. Hopefully this piece takes a different approach and helps you see how difficult, yet how important delegation is — not just to you or the organization, but to the person you are sharing responsibility with.

Ask yourself these questions …

What is your lawn mowing equivalent?

What things are you an expert at that you have successfully delegated, and which haven’t you done successfully?

What made the difference and what did you learn from it?

Delegation is one of the 13 skills I will be exploring in our upcoming 20 Days to Remarkable Leadership event. Check out the description of this event and register with my compliments right here.

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