Are You a Fire Fighter, a Mop or a Delegator?

Today we are pointing a finger at one of the biggest productivity inhibitors – problem solving!

Most of us are used to hearing the excuse – “I couldn’t get my work done because I spent the day putting out fires!”

In fact, in my past life as an employee, I can remember my manager’s biggest excuse for never completing any work was that she was a ‘mop head’. What did she mean? Well, to elaborate, a mop head is someone who spends their days following everyone else around mopping up the messes (aka problem solving).

Whatever your situation, I’m sure you have dealt with your own fair share of “fighting fires” or “mopping” in the workplace, and by doing so, you’ve had to put some of your own work-related tasks on the back burner. Some of this may come down to how we are wired. Using brain scans, researchers at MIT found that business owners and entrepreneurial thinkers have higher-than-average brain dexterity, allowing them to easily switch between left and right brain activities and solve problems more creatively. What is interesting about this is, the fact that they are better at creative problem solving can actually make it harder to delegate complex problems.

Why You MUST Delegate

Focusing on problem solving keeps the leader stuck on the proverbial dance floor and in a space where he or she can’t concentrate on the long-term goals of the business (or get any work done). Leaders need to get out of the problem ridden dance floor and up onto the balcony where they can see the big picture. This will allow leaders to better identify the larger, more complex problems that may be causing all the missteps and spills on the dance floor.

But we know this is difficult, because as leaders we really don’t want to delegate! And I can totally understand how difficult this can be – because as leaders we know delegating feels like we are relinquishing control and that is something most leaders (understandably) don’t want to do.

However, the smartest, most efficient leaders can identify and focus on their own strengths and delegate the rest. Therefore, the first step to delegating is a self assessment followed by creating a list of all the things that need to be done, but simply aren’t. Taking these steps will help create a plan of what can be delegated or even outsourced. Once you delegate, you will begin your ascent to the balcony and gain more confidence in the delegation process.

In order to stay on the balcony, it’s important to avoid the temptation to mop up the messes on the dance floor on your own. It is all too easy to say, “I’ll just do it myself” rather than investing time in finding someone that can help you out.  Before you act when there’s a problem, guide yourself with the following questions and reminder:

“Is this the best use of my time? Is this an area of my expertise? At the end of the day, you may love what I have to do, and you may do it really well, but can you outsource it someone else who can do it better, faster, or cheaper?”

But Who Should You Choose to Delegate To?

Not every business has a huge employee base to lean on and delegate to. Many smaller businesses and entrepreneurs have limited options when it comes to who they can delegate to. And even if you have a full staff, some tasks require experience and finesse to complete.

Thankfully, there is no shortage of business services companies to manage your critical tasks. The internet provides you a way to search, compare providers and access satisfaction reviews. If you choose to outsource, be selective. Take time to invest in the process so you can ensure a detailed hand-off necessary to ensure success, and stay engaged until your partner has proven themselves. Ensure you have a termination clause that releases you from an unsuccessful engagement.

Delegating will not only free up your valuable time, it will produce better business results, make you a happier person and transform you into an amazing leader. Good luck!


 [But this can be difficult, because as leaders we know delegating is difficult as can feel like we are relinquishing control and that is something most leaders don’t want to do.