Here I was in my bathroom minding my own business when Bells (my niece) pops in and hit me with: 

“I want to thank you for allowing me to do the dishes and the laundry.”

Wait, what? I thought, She’s thanking me for allowing her to do the dishes?

The look on my face must have been that of bewilderment because she continued… 

“I never let anyone help me. Now I understand why I should let them… it feels good to help.” 

Can I Help With That?

 A few days before, I nearly refused to let her do the laundry. My brain was trying to convince me that the wrong mixture of soap and water temperature might just destroy my clothes (side note: the only clothes in the laundry were my lounging beach clothes, but I digress). 

Silly, I know. And yet, my brain was alerting me to seize control, lest we have smelly, wrecked clothes… folded improperly, which nearly stopped me from letting her help. 

Can you relate? Are your team members completely capable of taking on more responsibility, if only you would let them do it? What stops you from giving them a chance? 

What Stops You From Letting Others Take Over Responsibilities 

If you’re anything like me, it probably has to do with one of these— 

It’ll be faster if I do it.
They don’t know what they’re doing, and I’ll end up having to do it over again anyway.
I need to be the one to do it. 

Get On With Your Imperfect Self 

“Sure,” I said, “go ahead.” 

While I would love to tell you that I had some great epiphany that granted me access to sanity around this issue, I didn’t. I got lucky… I was in the middle of cooking when she asked. 

The next morning, she brought a neatly folded stack of my laundry into my room and placed it on my dresser.  “Here you go,” she said, smiling. 

I thanked her. And then, after she walked out, I smelled the laundry. 

Weird? Sure. But how else was I supposed to know if she really knew what she was doing with the laundry?   

Accountability Is Key To Building Trust 

In the spirit of catching our team members doing something right, we need to smell the laundry. But first… 

We need to give them a chance to take responsibility.

Checking the results of their work is how we keep them accountable while also giving feedback on the good work. It also increases our capacity to continue extending trust. 

In this case, there were two things I caught her doing right. The clothes smelled clean. And… her folding job was excellent. 

What else could I allow her to do? I wondered, sad that she would be leaving the next day. (maybe that’s why she waited to thank me?) 

Give Them The Opportunity For Responsibility

What about you? What responsibilities are your team members and colleagues asking for? What projects can you empower someone on your team to do? 

The following 5 simple steps you can take to off load responsibilities: 

  1. Notice. What do they keep trying to do, whether it’s their job or not?
  2. Extend trust. Let them do the work, while holding them accountable for excellent results.
  3. Appreciate. Appreciate their efforts, and their good work. Specificity is key here. Instead of, “You do a good job,” try, “Your folding technique makes the clothes look brand new.”
  4. Help them improve. If something needs to be improved, ask good questions (let them coach themselves first), and then offer ideas in a timely manor… as close to the situation as possible.
  5. Provoke their potential. Suggest additional responsibilities, based on their capabilities, results, and a solid belief in them. Then, do everything you can to support their success.

While laundry might not be a responsibility you have a hard time letting go of, find out which ones you are holding onto… then, ask yourself why am I insisting on being the one to do the project? If the reason is because you love the work, well then, keep doing it. But, if it’s because you’re afraid… 

They won’t do a good enough job.
They don’t have enough experience.
You might look bad if they make a mistake. 

… Consider helping them get the experience, exposure, and mistakes that will ultimately ensure their long-term success… freeing up your time to do more of the work you enjoy. 

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Here’s To Your Greatness,  

Misti Burmeister   

Misti Burmeister has been solving people problems and empowering leaders for nearly 20 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Help your team reach its highest potential at

 P.S. Looking for a speaker, presenter, or facilitator on the topics of Allyship, the art of using privileges to advance people from marginalized groups, Feed Their Growth—Giving Tough Feedback In A Pandemic, Embracing Difficult Feedback Conversations, or Grievance To Growth, using difficult conversations to advance your team