Learning to Let Go
Published: October 13, 2016
Author: Laura Rodnitzky
You know that annoying question people often ask in interviews: “What’s your greatest fault?” The one that most people answer with a “fault” that’s really a positive?
“I work too hard.”
“I don’t know how to delegate.”
“I’m a perfectionist.”
I used to think those types of answers were BS, for lack of a better term. They were at best a form of humblebragging and at worst a deflection so candidates didn’t have to admit to a real fault.
But over time, as I’ve moved roles across 3Q and built new teams, and more recently as I became a mother and had to readjust my schedule, I’ve come to realize that these really can be negative traits. Let’s break down a couple of them.
Working Too Hard
Of course employers want their team to work hard, that’s a given. So how could it possibly be a negative?
Because in the age of smartphones and the internet, it’s too easy for hard work to leak over into the times we should be resting and recharging. I used to struggle a lot with this. My goal was always “inbox zero” so the second an email came in – whether it was during normal work hours or Saturday at 10 pm – I would respond. On nights and weekends, I would fire up my laptop for at least an hour or two just to get ahead, or not fall too far behind. I was always on, checking my phone incessantly, even during meals and social events.
And then I had my son. Suddenly, my nights and weekends were pretty full, and whatever free time I had was dedicated to cooking, laundry, or catching up on sleep. I would see my phone flashing before bed and get anxious, but I started asking myself: What happens if I don’t answer this now? Is anything going to change between now and 7 am? The answer, usually, was no.
Now when I get emails outside of working hours, I still have the urge to respond ASAP, but I don’t. I only respond to emails that are truly urgent, and – guess what? – when I start work in the morning, refreshed from sleep and with a clearer mind, I’m able to more efficiently and more coherently respond to the emails I left behind.
Not Delegating (which often goes hand in hand with Being a Perfectionist)
Training someone to take over a report or task or function that you’ve been handling can be frustrating and time-consuming. I’ve seen so many managers (myself included) keep unnecessary work on their plate when they have a team of direct reports or peers who are available to help out. Because let’s face it: if you want something done right, it’s often easier to just do it yourself.
There are two big problems with this: 1) you get overburdened, which leads to stress and can also lead to errors, and 2) you deprive your team of learning new skills and taking on more responsibility, which is how we all grow and advance in our careers.
Sure, there may be a period where instead of spending 30 minutes running a report, you have to spend an hour each week training and reviewing that report with whoever’s taking it over. And that hour can be painful, because it would just be so… much… faster… to just run it yourself! But if we look at those few hours as an investment, the payoff is totally worth it. It’s just a matter of looking at the long-term benefit over the short term, which isn’t always easy when you’re stressed out.
So, if you’re reading this blog outside of normal working hours, please stop. Shut down your laptop. Put your phone down. Go out and breathe some fresh air, stretch a little, do whatever it is you do to relax. We can all benefit from letting go a little.