Learn how to delegate
Running a marathon well includes, perhaps surprisingly, learning how to delegate. You cannot delegate everything, of course, but there are many times during training, preparation, the race itself, and even after the race, when it’s necessary and even advantageous to delegate by including others on your team. I don’t think any marathon entrant has ever figured everything out on their own without the help of other people, equipment, and other resources.
One of my favorite verses that has brought endless encouragement to my heart along my own parenting journey is Isaiah 54:13 (ESV) – “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Notice what this verse does not say – it doesn’t say that all of our children will be taught by us and us alone! The Lord God is our children’s primary teacher; He invites us to join Him in the work He is doing in each of our kids entrusted to us by Him.
Delegate, when used as a verb, means to entrust to another a task or responsibility; to appoint as one’s representative; or to assign responsibility or authority. As much as we’d each love to be able to do more for our children, the reality is that none of us can or should attempt to do it all. Moses, the Old Testament prophet and leader, received this God-given advice from his father-in-law: “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18). As obvious as that sounds, we each need that reminder. No one can do life or leadership alone and do it well. We can get worn out whether we’re leading many or few, because we each live with very real limits of time, space, energy, and resources. Children come to us wholly dependent on us, their parents, for pretty much everything. But even in the process of arriving in our arms, whether through birth or adoption, we do, in fact, begin to delegate almost immediately by leaning on the availability, wisdom, or expertise of others (e.g. extended family, medical professionals, friends, etc.). As our children grow, it is essential that we as parents in general, and home school teachers in particular, learn how to delegate well. If we don’t, we will either burn ourselves out or our children will be stunted or sidetracked in their development and opportunities.
Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva (a non-profit organization that provides microloans to entrepreneurs around the world) points out that “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” She goes on to say, “You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay or skip the rest.” Although her comments are directed at entrepreneurs, they apply to those of us who have chosen to develop home schools for our children, as each of our unique, small-yet-powerful home schools are akin to small business ventures, not in the sense of turning a profit, of course, but rather in the sense of entrepreneurship. A definition of entrepreneurship is “the capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a venture along with any of its risks.” We are entrepreneurs of sorts seeking to raise our children to be well-rounded, well-prepared, well-functioning adults who contribute to the well-being of others for the greater glory of God.
So here we are at various points along this journey of developing, organizing, and managing our ventures filled with risks, unknowns, adventures, doubts, possibilities, regrets, joys, sorrows, successes, fears, findings, frustrations, questions, discoveries, . . . very much a mixed bag. Some of us are just setting out, others are valiantly slogging along, yet others near or at the end of this particular journey. We have each been immeasurably blessed by God – with His presence and power, with our children and families, with gifts and graces, with skills and experiences. But none of us is a perfect parent, wonder woman or superman. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made, each human, each limited. We must learn to delegate, delegate wisely, and delegate well.
Here are some more inspiring and challenging quotes from those who have gone before us that help us to focus on the importance of delegation:
“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.” (Andrew Carnegie, industrialist and philanthropist)
“Don’t be a bottleneck . . . Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure, and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it.” (Donald Rumsfeld, 13th and 21st U.S. Secretary of Defense)
“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” (Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the U.S.)
“Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” (David Ogilvy, advertising tycoon known as the “Father of Advertising”)
So how can tell if we need to delegate? A couple of ideas – we feel so overloaded that the mere thought of adding one more thing to our schedules or spending stresses us out; we’ve lost sight of the goal(s) we thought we had clearly set out to attain; we can’t think straight or remember things as well as we’d like to; we find our emotions are either too erratic or too flat.
Life can be hard. Psalm 146:8 tells us that “the LORD lifts up those who are weighed down.” We may feel overwhelmed or defeated at times, or even much of the time. At times like those we need to, more than ever, remember the hope that we have in God through Christ Jesus. Second Corinthians 4:7-8 in The Message tell us, “If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.” Second Peter 2:2-4a starts with a blessing and goes on to assure us, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.” The good news is that our good God has promised that He has already (past tense) given us everything we need for life and godliness! He’s given us Himself and His Word first and foremost. But He’s also given us one another. God created us for relationship, with Himself and with one another. He invites us to learn and grow, even as we are helping our children to learn and grow. Each of us can add to or sharpen the tools in our toolbelts, in order to become the best version of ourselves we can be as He guides us on our journeys.
Hopefully we’re each convinced by now of our need to delegate. So how do we go about it? In a simple analogy, if we were trying to get our personal finances in order, we might notice that too much of our weekly budget was going towards eating out. We may have fallen into a habit of doing so because it’s fast, convenient, tasty, and popular with the family. To change direction towards preparing the food ourselves and providing healthier options for our families would cost us more upfront in terms of time, initial costs, planning, and potential pushback (“But I want Chick-fil-A!”). However, it’s clear that in the long run, the benefits of making that change would far outweigh the upfront costs. We’re confronted with a choice. We’re going to have to be honest with ourselves and decide what we’re ultimately hoping to accomplish. Then we have to just roll up our sleeves, gather our grit, and do the best we can to head in that direction. Once we decide we want to begin delegating more, we need to be able to see and state clearly what we’re hoping will ultimately change, because if we don’t know where we’re headed, we’ll surely lose our way. It will likely take some time; it will certainly take a lot of effort and determination; but in the end, it will be worth it if it results in our moving closer to the goal.
Career and business strategist Jenny Blake suggests looking at looking at six T’s to determine which things in your life you should delegate – things that are Tiny, Tedious, Time-consuming, Teachable, Terrible at, and Time-sensitive. We’ll be looking at each one of these in more depth in coming months as they relate to home schooling. I hope you can join us again soon as we explore each one of these in turn.
Isaiah 54:13 (ESV) – “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.”