Ask Marissa: How Do I Stop Feeling Emotionally Attached To My Work?
Thanks for your question!
This is a huge topic, so to help diagnose this, I’ve got a few thoughts and questions for you to consider.
What makes you proudest about what you do? Can you think of 10 or 15 things?
For me, I feel the most pride when I see tangible results that prove my advice and mentorship has helped someone else achieve a huge goal or perform at a higher level than they thought possible. A few years ago, a couple I coached reported that they were able to pay off their student loan debt years ahead of schedule by applying time management principles to improve their financial discipline.
If you can find themes within your work that give you pride, they become touchpoints to help you reframe a negative experience into a positive one.
I do a lot of scripting for my clients, and it used to be really frustrating when I’d put my heart and soul into a script only to have the speaker use something completely different.
But then I had a shift in my thinking: what if the script I was writing wasn’t a literal script for them to read, but an inspiration piece? This shift meant the actual goal of my script isn’t to give them something to read verbatim, but to help get them in the right frame of mind to deliver a similar message, using language that’s authentic and natural to them.
With that judo move, I’m able to let go of micromanaging how much of my speech the speaker uses. Instead, I focus on using our teamwork to produce a successful result.
Another piece of advice: fall in love with the result, not the work.
Here, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t love what you do. I’m suggesting that you assign more value and excitement to a successful result than to the work that went into it.
If you’re a sports fan, think about the marquee players who compete in championship events — the MLB World Series, NHL Stanley Cup, NBA Finals.
Nobody on the planet cares about the millions of hours these athletes put into fine-tuning their skills, conditioning, strength training, physical therapy, studying game film, and reading scouting reports. They care about the results that athlete produces when it matters.
Now, here’s where things get complex: in the above example, most people see themselves as the athlete. But what if you were the team’s manager or head coach? Instead of producing the result yourself, your entire mission is about enabling others to produce results.
That, Raveena, is where I think all work is headed. Whether you’re in a management role or a support role, we all must be leaders. Your “direct reports” might be contractors through Fiverr or Upwork, or digital assistants like Viv or x.ai, or colleagues you’re collaborating with, but the interaction is similar — use the tools and resources available to you to produce a better, faster, easier or cheaper result than you could have on your own.
With that context of the future of work in mind, let me return to your question. You say that you have trouble delegating now — can you identify why?
In my work, I often see this happen because people don’t trust their team members to do the work at their level, or with the care and context they would if they did the task on their own. Or they say things like, “It’s faster if I do it,” or “By the time I explain this to someone, I could have done it myself.”
I’ll address this one by one.
Don’t trust team: Part of trust is about ensuring those you delegate to are able to see success through your filters. I help clients make detailed checklists and documentation of what they feel is most important to do that task successfully. Once that checklist is complete, you have a recipe for success — one that anyone can follow — which is an ideal asset for a training session. This exact strategy is how I helped train 25+ writers to go from about 10 articles a day to 30+. All I needed to do was create the recipe.
It’s faster if I do it: Most of the time, this is exactly right — which is why it’s such a tough habit to break. There will be a ramp-up time as your trainees learn how to do a new skill. They’ll make mistakes, and they’ll likely move 10x slower than you would at first. You’ll get frustrated, and some of you might micromanage so much that But when they’re up to speed, you can train as many people to help you as you need.
What keeps high performers from being Ridiculously Efficient is their ability to produce work at scale.
Let’s take a top-performing person in sales. I’ll call her Sharon.
Sharon has the best close rate on the team, and by every measure, she is the best salesperson on the team.
Scenario A: Sharon is an excellent individual achiever.
Scenario B: Sharon is an excellent individual achiever, and uses her coaching skills to improve her colleagues’ results and close rates.
Which scenario brings the most value to the business — and to Sharon?
In both situations, Sharon is personally crushing it. There’s no question she’s a valuable asset to the business.
In Scenario B, she’s also single-handedly upleveled her colleagues’ skills and, as a result, improved the entire department’s conversions. This makes her priceless to the company.
Compare that to Scenario A, where Sharon is an individual rockstar… who is continually competing against her colleagues to stay on top. And in a world of 7.5 billion, it’s unlikely that any of us will win a “smartness competition,” as Google X’s Astro Teller calls it.
Get excited about the intrinsic motivation of having your leadership produce a successful result, not the extrinsic motivation of someone else’s recognition of your work. When you have a habit of producing results, you get all the recognition you could ever desire.
Ask Marissa is an ongoing blog series in which we answer all your questions about optimizing your life. If you have a question for Marissa, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.