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How to Prevent Burnout by Delegating Tasks

21 May, 2019

Heather Natour

Heather Natour

Head of Engineering, Seller & B2B at Opendoor

Heather Natour, Engineering Director at Opendoor, shares her experience on how to prevent burnout by delegating tasks to other team members.

Problem

I have seen many talented leaders burn out because they feel the need to do it all, especially tasks they loathe. While I also found myself falling into that trap, as a working parent I didn't have the luxury of time to completely pour into my work. I needed to find ways to keep my teams productive while also managing my own time.

Actions taken

  • Your calendar is easily filled with meetings and you don't need to attend them all. For example, I asked my senior engineers to lead and facilitate meetings, practicing their communication skills and driving projects forward.
  • For coordination that needs to happen among multiple teams I have asked someone who is driving the engineering for the project to do the preparation for that meeting. Not only does that reinforce that those closest to the work are communicating more directly, I'm able to only jump in to catch any gaps or dependencies. It's a great opportunity for tech leads in the team to expand the breadth of their impact, and in the process other team members also proactively seek opportunities to step up.

Lessons learned

  • You can't just throw a task at somebody and walk away. It is a gradual process. I approach it like any other opportunity for growth, showing an individual how I approach it while allowing them to improve on that and find their own way.
  • This approach also tended to improve how meeting outcomes were synthesized and shared out. Once those outcomes were better synthesized and communicated, the share-out became the way I consumed the information which allowed me to wean myself away from some tasks.
  • It allowed me to focus more deeply on a smaller set of items and target specific issues I wanted to address in more depth. For example, by delegating a particular task to my engineers I didn't feel obliged anymore to pay attention to every single detail and was able to focus on collaborating more deeply to solve targeted problems—in this case large architectural changes required to support the next phase of major features.

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