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How I Learned to Delegate by Cooking Soufflé

Patience and no interference control the outcome of both

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BY Jim Schleckser - 03 Apr 2018

How I Learned to Delegate by Cooking Soufflé

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

When I was growing up, my father would always cook up a delicious treat on special occasions: he would make us a souffl.

The recipe for making a souffl isn't that complicated: it's really just eggs, flour, and cheese. You then whisk the egg mixture up until it gets nice and frothy and then pour it into a casserole dish, which you pop into a hot oven. That's it.

When it's done right, your eggy foamy mixture will bake in the oven and come out as a light, airy and delicious souffl!

But the hardest part of making a souffl is that you need to trust that it will cook in the oven. Once you put it in to bake, you can't keep checking on it by opening the oven door or you'll cause your souffl to collapse--leaving you with a dense and chewy omelet instead.

It turns out that delegating a task to someone is just like baking a souffl: if you worry too much and check in too often, you'll ruin the work.

What great bosses understand is that when you delegate something to a subordinate, the secret to success is to simply to wait for the final results.

For some of us, both of these tasks can be incredibly difficult to do. There have been times when I have tried to carry on my father's tradition and found myself glued to the window pane of the oven obsessing over whether my souffl was rising or not. It was difficult, almost painful, not to open the oven door and see how it was doing.

Similarly, it can be so tempting to check in on a subordinate you have delegated something to as a way to see how things are going.

But whenever you do that, you greatly increase the risk that you will mess things up. That's why it's so critical that once you delegate a task, you need to sit back and wait for the outcome.

Now, let's be clear - delegation is not abrogation. Ultimately, as the boss you are responsible for the outcome of the work, even if it is done entirely by your people. As I have previously written, there are levels of delegation and how hands off you are is dependent on the readiness of your team to take ownership. You need to strike that balance in the delegation.

You might find that the result will be better than you ever imagined--and well worth your investment of patience for a tasty result.


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