A Solid Discussion Up-Front Will Increase Their Confidence And Reduce Mistakes.
By Steve Schumacher
Over the years, one of the things I have noticed about managers is that they do not do a very good job of giving their employees new assignments. Managers, generally, have gotten better at delegating assignments and believing in empowering their employees.
Unfortunately, they tend to be in a hurry and do not spend enough time upfront to ensure that the employee understands the assignment clearly. There are several reasons for this:
- Managers are in a rush and will not take the time to have a meaningful discussion.
- Employees want to show their boss that they can do the assignment with little direction.
- Priorities are constantly changing and managers know that giving a lot of direction may be a waste of time because the whole assignment may change quickly.
- Employees are afraid of asking a lot of questions for fear of looking incapable.
The payoffs in taking the time to send an employee off on a new assignment effectively are many:
- It will set the employee on the right path toward a goal.
- Clear, specific targets for performance can be set.
- An opportunity to plan for potential obstacles.
- Establishment of clear responsibilities in each area of the assignment.
- Ensures that the employee knows how the assignment contributes to the organization’s goals.
To have an effective meeting, when giving a new assignment, follow these steps:
- State the purpose of the meeting. Be very clear with the employee why you are meeting with them. Let them know why you are asking them to take on the new assignment. If you can, tell them you want to discuss the assignment with them in advance of the meeting. That will give them time to mentally prepare.
- Describe the task, the results expected, and why the task is important.
Make it crystal clear to the employee what exactly it is you are asking them to do. Simply because it is clear in your mind, does not mean they see it the same way. If you have some quantifiable outcome you are seeking, share that with the employee. They will be more motivated if they have a scoreboard. Let them know why this assignment is important to you, your department, the company, etc.
- Discuss how the employee will accomplish the assignment. The key word here is “discuss.” Get their ideas on how they see the assignment being completed. Work with them on identifying what resources they will need, the time they need, and any extra help they may need from you.
- Discuss any potential barriers. Ask the employee what they see as the challenges to getting this assignment completed successfully. You may know all of the barriers and challenges, but asking them to identify them will develop buy-in and ownership on their part.
- Agree on an action plan. This step is crucial. Do not leave the meeting until you both have agreed on Who does What by When. Do not run the risk of leaving the discussion with one perception and the employee having a different one.
- Encourage the employee. This is your opportunity to be a cheerleader. Tell the employee that you have faith in their ability. Make sure they hear that you are available to assist, if needed. It is important that the employee feels confident. Showing your support and availability will help.
- Set a follow-up time. Get out your calendars and set up a time to get back together. That will be an opportunity for you to check on their progress and add any coaching that is necessary. People do not become perfect overnight, so set a time to do any mid-course corrections that may be necessary.
Yes, having a discussion like this takes some planning and time. One of your roles as a manager is to coach and develop your employees by giving them new assignments. Keep in mind that taking on new assignments always runs the risk of failure. By setting clear expectations with your employee up-front, you will increase their confidence and, in the long-run, greatly minimize the number and severity of mistakes.
The process of organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors have the ability to impact the organization's overall ability to successfully evolve. Improper development, management and monitoring can result in the change process spinning out of control and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.
As individuals are making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer controlling the employee's actions, but guiding and directing them through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process into chaos.
Most organizational changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent application of leadership ideas and concepts and development of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and continually moves forward over time.
Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively.
This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.
– Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.