A lesson in delegation

Last week, we took some important customers to Turnberry, one of the worlds most famous golf resorts.   Turnberry has hosted the most prestigious championships in World Golf, such as The Open, it’s a notoriously difficult course.

Each playing guest was assigned a caddy for their round.  I don’t play golf personally, however I do know that playing with an experienced caddy is something that an amateur golfer will rarely get to do.   The caddy pretty much does everything for you apart from swing the club, they’ll carry your bag, advise on your club selection, clean your ball and given their intimate knowledge of specific golf courses, really be able to guide you in to a specific hole in terms of direction.

Talking to customers over dinner, it was fascinating to hear what an un-nerving experience this was for many of them. 

The key reason was this.  To pass your club selection over to someone else they found really difficult, as they reached for their “old faithful favourite club” the caddy would have already taken out a different club, having assessed how they’d played over the previous couple of holes. The players, after years of playing with their clubs and getting a real feeling for how far they can hit a ball with a specific club, were now in a position where someone was telling them to use something else.  The caddy, making this choice based upon”real-time” data (their performance and the weather conditions).

Business Lesson

It reminded me of delegation and the uncomfortable feeling that delegation brings to you when you first start to truly practice it.  You genuinely put yourselves in the hands of others and have to rely on their expertise to get things done.  I often liken it to bungee jumping.  You’re stood facing an enormous drop and every part of you is saying “don’t do it”, you jump and are terrified whilst you drop, then you feel the bungee kick in and you come back up again.   As you reach the platform having been winched back up, the overwhelming rush of adrenalin makes you want to do it again, realising that it’s not so bad after all.

I meet lots of business owners and entrepreneurs who still struggle with delegation.   They are still hanging on to the micro-details of how their business runs, making every small decision and not making the positive choice to trust others in order that they can spend more time on the bigger picture of the business.  They are almost addicted to the concept that the business cannot run without their direct input.  I made this mistake early on in my executive career and realised that I had to do my own personal delegation bungee jump.  It was terrifying at first, but when I realised the power it gave to others, how it re-prioritised my time and outputs and what a bottleneck I had become, there was no looking back.  Breathe in, don’t look down and jump!