3 Steps to Delegation and Getting Your Life Back

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If you manage a community theatre company you are a busy person.  There only ever seems to be six people doing the work of twenty.  You always manage to get the show on but you’re exhausted, stressed and struggling.

You devote yourself to the company and, in your eyes you deserve a Nobel Prize for the sacrifices you make.  Martyrdom is tattooed on your forehead for all to see and admire but no one seems to notice.  If fact, you’re no longer enjoying what you used to love and the prospect of handing over your role to someone else fills you with dread.  Sound familiar?

Signs that you’re losing it.

  • You find it difficult to delegate because it takes so much time to teach someone else to do the task, you may as well do it yourself.
  • You’re a great believer that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
  • When you do have helpers, they don’t do the job the ‘right’ way.
  • Change is something that strikes fear into your heart.

If any of this is ringing bells for you, it might be time to sit back, breath and consider that this is not healthy for you or your theatre company.

Most community theatre governance committees don’t consider how to protect their volunteers from burnout. The result is a lack of growth and no exit strategy; when they retire, all the experience and knowledge in their heads leaves with them instead of being used to equip the next generation of leaders.

I can hear your cries now – “I don’t have time to think about training someone else!”  I understand how you feel.  I’ve been in your position.  When you began your role you were passionate about what you were doing.  You felt empowered by how much you were needed and you saw great results from your work.  Eventually though, your passion waned as you spent too much time away from your family and your friends complained about not seeing you anymore.

I hate to tell you this but you aren’t the only person who can do your job.  In fact, there are people about who could do it better.  Heaven forbid!  As you choke on that little bit of information, I want you to remember that this is a hobby and you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself.

You’re not being paid enough to go through another show angry and stressed. In fact, no one else is being paid enough to go through another show with you being angry and stressed.

Delegation and exit strategies are common areas of concern in all theatre companies but I’ve found that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to delegation is the belief that you can’t be replaced.  This belief is as much an emotional challenge as a practical one.  It subconsciously makes us feel important, giving us an emotional payoff.

If you’re like me, the first thing you do when you feel overwhelmed by your to do list is prioritise your time. You drag out your diary, go through a block of post it notes and cover a wall planner in colourful penmanship that lists every task you have to do in the course of producing a show.  At the end of one of these sessions, you pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up and admire your work.  Gosh, you’re good!

The problem is you don’t seem to have made any difference to your available time. This is because time management doesn’t create more time it just organises it.  You have just as much work to do – it’s just that now it’s listed in pretty colours on your wall.  We’re worshipping the wall and the glorification of busyness.

Step away from the planner! Holster your coloured markers and put down your post it notes!

Ask yourself this question?  Have you given yourself permission to say no? What is your first reaction when people ask you to do something for them? If you are overly busy right now, I’d guess that you get a bit of a kick out of being needed. The word ‘no’ gets stuck in your throat and you feel like you’re letting the other person down if you refuse their request.

Well, my lovely, you better learn to say no to things that don’t matter or you’ll continually end up saying no to the things that do matter!  Give yourself permission to say no. This glorification of busyness makes you feel important now but it isn’t healthy for you or the people who really matter in your life. Rip the bandaid off and accept the fact that delegation is the answer; uncomfortable in the short term but it will set up a future that gives you back to your family and releases others into potential areas of enjoyment.

Delegate generously.

  1. Don’t be a pain in the backside by micro-managing. Prepare a framework of boundaries and outcomes you need from the task and accept that there is more than one way of getting from point A to point B. Your way is not the only way. Get a sense of perspective about this. You’re not curing cancer; you’re producing amateur theatre for the ‘fun’ of it. Let go.
  2. Encourage and praise. The person taking on the task probably feels like they have big shoes to fill. Let them know they’re doing great and that their ideas are valid and helpful to the future of the company.
  3. Replicate Step 1. Make it known that you want help and become known as the best delegator in history. Eventually people will accept that you are serious about sharing and will actually ask to help.

Now pick up your post it notes and coloured markers again and write this on 20 of them and stick them all over the house – “I will say no to the things that don’t matter so that I don’t end up saying no to the things that do matter!”

Eventually you will end up with a section on your wall planner called ‘REST’.

Cheers, Sher.

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