This is a seriously important issue in professional service firms where delegation typically improves margins and helps develop the talent of juniors.
The answer, according to Kegan and Lahey , is that coaches should recognise that there are typically hidden commitments that aren’t normally being expressed.
Here is their suggested four step coaching process.
Step 1 – Coaches might start by focusing on the explicit commitment – something they clearly want to achieve because they recognize it is vital to their continued success and advancement (eg delegating more).
Step 2 – The coach next focuses on the obstructive behaviours. What are they doing or not doing that works against fulfilling the commitment? Instead of regarding these behaviours as things that just need to go away, coaches should see them as valuable information that can be explored to gain a deeper understanding of what really motivates them and how they actually make choices. This step flushes out their hidden commitments.
Step 3 – The coach invites the person to delve one level deeper to surface the big assumptions behind the hidden commitments. These unspoken and often unconscious assumptions are the ultimate source of the anxiety shaping the person’s obstructive behaviours, and so can be the gateway to substantial, lasting change and great leaps forward in their development.
In the case of the person not delegating enough, the misguided assumptions might be:
- It will take longer and I haven’t got time to delegate it
- They won’t do it as well as I could, or even they might do it badly
- They might do it better than me which would make me feel bad
Fortunately, misguided assumptions can be addressed though this step may take a few coaching sessions. The coach might ask: what might happen if you did…? Their assumptions provide a sort of immune system protecting them, not from disease, but from perceived anxiety of some kind.
Coaches can help leaders to systematically consider their hidden beliefs, then replace false or overly restrictive beliefs with new beliefs. This work proceeds at whatever pace the person can accommodate, but quite often they can redraw their immunity systems within a few months, bringing their big assumptions more into harmony with their visible commitments.
Step 4 – The coach explores different experiments in which their immune system is protected but more delegation takes place. Perhaps small, carefully controlled steps are taken initially. The goal is never to destroy a leader’s immune system, which is an essential part of who they are and so must be acknowledged, honoured, and healthily incorporated into their development. Rather, the object is to help them see how they might consciously modify their psychological immune systems to continue to provide essential internal protections, while also permitting the accomplishment of their stated goals.
If you found this useful, you might also like Tips for Coaches 1 – Coaching Fat Smokers. See https://tonyreiss.com/2016/05/04/tips-for-coaches-1-coaching-fat-smokers/