The number one skill of great leaders is communication, which the leader uses in many ways. It is one of the most important talents needed by the leader to effectively delegate work to his collaborators (employees).
In my 15 years of service in the military (the first four in the Air Force Officer’s Academy), I had the opportunity to learn something about both giving orders and delegating tasks. There is quite a difference between these two even though they seem rather similar. While both have the ultimate goal of getting something done, delegating tasks leaves more room for creativity and synergy than simply giving orders.
In my opinion, neither is more important than the other, they are just different. In the military, there are times when delegation is not possible and orders must be given. Situations like this exist in industrial/commercial environments, when the leader needs to give an order instead of delegating. However, in this post I will focus on the second option: efficient delegation.
In the following, you will find the main aspects I have learnt about effective delegation:
In the past, the image of “the boss” was associated with a screaming and or intense man that delivered orders with strong hand. Nowadays, great leaders know that a polite request is more effective than a strong, threatening order. Nevertheless, some people still rely on power and fear as a way to manage people and, sometimes, as a way to compensate their lack of leadership capabilities.
So, be polite when you are delegating tasks. Using “please” will not make you less of a leader; in fact, RESPECT is one of the top qualities of a great leader. Your employees will be keener welcoming to receive the task you are requesting.
2) Present a Reason
When possible, try to briefly communicate the reason for the final purpose of the job, especially for boring or repetitive tasks. In this way, the person can feel more motivated since he will know that he is contributing to a higher purpose than the task itself. For example, if you need someone to make an inventory of electric motors installed in all conveyor lines, the employee will value that task if he knows it is part of a two-year plan to standardize all models within the plant.
It is important to know how to identify whether communicating the purpose of a task is worthwhile or not. This sort of knowledge prevents unnecessary explanations for every job that must be done. This decision will depend mostly on:
- Type of Task. Is it a regular task? Is the task part of the employee’s job responsibilities? Is it a repetitive or boring task? Will the explanation be useful to figure out how to do the job?
- Type of Person. Is he a self-motivated person? Is the task a test of his abilities?
- Experience of Person. Is he overqualified for the task, but you need him to do it anyway? Is he an entry-level worker?
3) Describe the Goal
This is one of the more important aspects. You need to communicate what you specifically need, and the way you do so is strongly dependent on the type of task.
Explaining the objectives and expectations of a task to an employee is more effective than simply stating instructions. This allows people to use their experience and creativity to figure out the best way to perform a job rather than just performing a list of predefined tasks.. Remember that creativity and thinking are habits, and if you don’t promote them within your team, it will become just a group of instruction followers.
For complex tasks ask for a worker’s opinion and ideas about the job and set the objective together when possible. You do not have to accept the suggestions, but otherwise you may miss some great ideas.
Finally, you need to be specific and give measurable expected results. If you do not indicate such you may receive something different from your expectations at the end. As many things are in management, this is a matter of balance between establishing exactly what you request and leaving enough room for the worker to undergo his own experience and develop a sense of creativity and style to do the job.
On the next post I will talk about the remaining points:
- Setting deadlines
- Facilitating resources and support
- Recognizing a good job.
- And don’t miss the final advice to avoid failing in tasks delegation and to build a strong team through effective delegation!
Thanks for reading!