Life is sweet at home

Delegate at Work and at Caregiving

Marla and her mom share a special moment looking at photo albums.

Marla and her mom share a special moment looking at photo albums.

Learning that I cannot micromanage every last detail of my business life or of my family life as a caregiver to my mother, father and grandfather, has been essential to success in both parts of my life.

Although it took a lot of hard knocks to gain that awareness, over the years I have learned to delegate more and more of the details of running Andelcare  as well as the often overwhelming responsibilities of caring for my loved ones. In fact, that reality is one reason I founded Andelcare.

I was recently reminded how important it is to delegate at both work and at home when the website Carpe Juvenis ( went live with a “Spotlight-Marla Beck” feature interview with me. The online publication is devoted to encouraging youth to make their dreams a reality by seizing their youth.

Reading the interview, I was fascinated to see how important delegation is to me. Here is an excerpt:

CJ: What does your role as President of Andelcare entail?

MB: I delegate as much as possible because I don’t want it to be all about me. In case something happens to me the company can keep going. I still deal with the high level finances, and other smaller tasks, such as renewing the liability insurance. A job for a leader is to be more of the visionary and the cheerleader. I make sure my staff knows that I appreciate them, and I also want them to grow in their jobs. I do marketing and finance, but a lot of it is making sure the ship is on a path.

Leadership in Business, Caregiving

Marla and her mom enjoy a lovely meal together.

Marla and her mom enjoy a lovely meal together.

Ruminating on my commitment to delegating tasks, I thought about how delegation at work parallels delegation at home. First of all, the manager or caregiver needs to deal with the all-too-human emotions that accompany leadership roles: feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anger and resentment. It’s like a cry in the woods, “Why do I have to be responsible for everything and everybody?”

The reason is that someone has to do it. However, in business and as a caregiver, it’s imperative to try to step back and look at the situation with as much distance and compassion for self as possible. As Beth Witrogen McLeod writes in her article “Caring for an Aging Parent: Did I do Enough?

“People feel guilt because they think that somehow there’s something they could, might, should, would have done,” says Lee L. Pollak, director of the Bereavement Center at Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco. “But the perfect ending never happens, no matter how well prepared a family is.”

Pollak says America’s goal-oriented, independent-minded society works indirectly to boost feelings of guilt. “We think we ought to be able to control things. So there’s an extra layer of guilt if it doesn’t go the way we want or expect.”

McLeod suggests we all need to give ourselves some slack. One of the best ways to give “slack” is to figure out ways to give ourselves self-care by delegating some of the tasks, enlist help from capable/in-home and in-home health care professionals and join a networking/caregiver support group. She adds, “Get all the information available so you know you are doing the best you can.”

How to Delegate at Work AND at Home

I’m going to add the term “caregiver” to all these tips about how to be a good leader at work/or as a caregiver. Using some of these delegation suggestions, you may be able to get more of the kind of help you need in your role as caregiver.

Once again, I realize from my interview in, one person cannot do it all – it takes a village and that village needs leadership to accomplish the “best job possible.”

Marla delegated some of her mom's care in order to make time for herself and exercise.

Marla delegated some of her mom’s care in order to make time for herself and exercise.

Tips for delegating work and caregiving:

  • Whenever possible, whendelegating work/caregiving, give the person a whole task to do. (If you can’t give the employee/caregiver a whole task, make sure they understand the overall purpose of the project or task. If possible, connect them to the group that is managing or planning the work. Members contribute most effectively when they are aware of the big picture.)
  • Make sure the staff person/caregiver understands exactly what you want them to do. Ask questions, watch the work performed or have them give you feedback to make sure your instructions were understood.
  • If you have a picture of what a successful outcome or output will look like, share your picture with the staff person/caregiver. You want to make the person right. You don’t want to fool the person to whom you delegate authority for a task, into believing that any outcome will do, unless you really feel that way.
  • Identify the key points of the project or dates when you want feedback about progress. This is the critical path that provides you with the feedback you need without causing you to micromanage your direct report or team. You need assurance that the delegated task or project is on track. You also need the opportunity to influence the project’s direction and the team or individual’s decisions.
  • Identify the measurements or the outcome you will use to determine that the project was successfully completed. (This will make performance development planning more measurable and less subjective, too.)
  • Determine, in advance, how you will thank and reward the staff person/caregivers for their successful completion of the task or project you delegated.

It takes trust and courage to delegate, but it’s worth it. When all is said and done, you want to know you did the best you could.

How do you delegate caregiving tasks?