Effective delegation can be a powerful tool in engaging your employees well. This is especially true during this season of more remote work and less in-person interactions. More than ever, now is the time to take stock of your delegation style and improve it. In our experience, we have seen a hierarchy of delegation styles emerge with varying degrees of effectiveness in the workplace. Some exhaust. Some empower. Which style do you use?
How to Exhaust Your Team
- Verbal Communication.
Topping the list as the least effective delegation method is Verbal Communication. While the easiest to give, this is the hardest to receive. Verbal communication is ripe for misunderstanding and forgetting. They leave no paper trail to refer back to, so employees cannot confirm details or due dates. And the leader cannot check in on progress without asking the employee. We often see this method used in a way that interrupts the recipient and pays no regard to their current workload. It also makes it almost impossible to correctly prioritize that task compared to the rest of their responsibilities.
- Post-It Notes.
A close second for the least-effective delegation method is the Post-It Note. Personally, I loathe this method the most. Cluttering another’s desk with random tasks and questions may be the ultimate obstacle to productivity. The likelihood that a task is lost, covered up, or missed is tremendous. It is difficult to organize tasks by priority, yielding to the default of focusing on whatever they see first – if they see it at all. Like Verbal Communication, it is also very difficult to prioritize Post-It Tasks in light of the recipient’s other responsibilities. Indeed, Verbal Communication often lead to Post-It Notes as the recipient struggles to jot down the details of the given task. This leads to a very reactive and disorganized day.
- Email System.
The next – slightly better – delegation method in this hierarchy is the Email System. While this method provides a paper trail directly to your employee’s inbox, you still run a high risk that the email is deleted, overlooked, or pushed out of the first page of emails. Now, the recipient must either flag the email, remember it, or print it – none of which allow them to correctly prioritize their activities that day. The leader must dig through their sent emails to find outstanding tasks, and must ask about progress on each task.
To varying degrees, each of these delegation methods interrupts your team and devalues their time and energy. They also set up your team to react to you all day, rather than proactively planning their day around the most important tasks and seeing those tasks through to completion.
How to Empower Your Team
Employees work best when they have a sense of ownership over their time and work. One easy way leaders can accomplish this is to delegate tasks in a way that honors their time, lets them plan their day, and lets them complete important tasks on time. So how can you alter your delegation style to empower your team?
- Identify your current delegation system. Do you have one? Or do you use several, depending on the moment?
We have found that most people default to a reactionary delegation style. It takes a deliberate effort to learn how to delegate more effectively. Have you done the work to design and use a delegation method that works with – not against – your team?
- How do your employees take action? Their conation will give you predictable insight on how they take action, which informs how you communicate with them most effectively.
A quick Kolbe A Index assessment will tell you how your team members instinctively take action, or their conative strengths. Long Follow Thrus hate interruptions, so random and unpredictable interruptions all day without the time to complete their task list may leave employees feeling defeated at the end of the day. Short Follow Thrus may want to move quickly between tasks, not finishing tasks before moving on to the next one. This makes an organized, easy-to-prioritize task list important. Long Fact Finders need more details than others. Adopting a delegation style that allows you to give all of the necessary information in one place will help them move forward without having to wait on you for more clarification. Understanding your team’s conation will help you design the best delegation system for you and your team.
- Create a system to delegate tasks in a way that honors your employees’ time and grants them ownership over their days. Then schedule a time to review all outstanding tasks.
What technology can you use to delegate and monitor tasks? Salesforce and Nozbe Teams are two programs that allow for this type of collaboration.
Design how you will communicate non-urgent tasks to your team members. Always include a due date for each task. This empowers your team to correctly prioritize tasks.
Then create an expectation for urgent tasks – what makes the task urgent, and how will you communicate it?
In our business, our Contact Record Management System allows us to assign “tasks” to other team members. In each task, we can include details like the client, the action needed, and the due date. The assignor can check on the status of tasks without interrupting the assignee. And the assignee can easily prioritize their tasks based on due date.
Then, during a weekly check-in, we can review tasks with each team member. This gives us a designated time to get updates on outstanding tasks, closure on completed tasks, re-prioritize tasks, and check-in on their workload so we can make adjustments. Without constantly interrupting our team members, they are free to independently work through their own tasks and responsibilities.
We have also committed to avoid same-day tasks as much as possible. Urgent tasks happen, but committing to avoid urgency as much as you can respects your team’s time and energy.
If you need help reworking your delegation style, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can work with you (remotely) to identify your team’s conative strengths, then apply that knowledge as you design a delegation method that works for your organization.