Communicate for Understanding by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC
Delegation is one of the most important parts of leadership, yet it can be one of the most difficult for many leaders. Delegating tasks, systems and processes to others requires trust and comfort that these tasks will be carried out appropriately.
The most important thing a leader can do to ensure delegated tasks are managed to his or her high standards is to communicate the purpose and the process to the employee well. When both you and the employee or team feels that they have been adequately trained in how to take over a process or task, there is a great comfort level that no quality in the work will be lost. This requires proper communication and clear instructions.
This is where many attempts at delegation fail. Often, the person who has handled the task for a long while feels so comfortable with the process and knows it so well, that it can be hard to effectively communicate the requirements and instructions to others. Here are some tips to help ensure that you are appropriately communicating instructions to employees.
1. Write the process down for yourself. Often, processes that are being delegated are so rote to the person who has been handling them that there is no written process. Getting the process on paper will help you to fine tune all the steps necessary to complete the task before instructing others on how to do so.
2. Walk through the task with the employee or team. Provide verbal instruction on each step, explaining why this step is important and what consequences arise from the task not being performed properly. One of the most important pieces of clear communication is ensuring that employees know why they are doing what they are doing, not just how to do it. This keeps employees invested in the work they do.
3. Allow the employee to complete the task, using the written process, under your supervision. This is a great test of whether your written communication was clear, and allows you to tweak it, if necessary. Ask the employee for feedback on the written process, so that you can make corrections that benefit them.
4. Be available for questions and help as the employee begins to tackle the task on his or her own. This will give both of you the comfort level that there is plenty of opportunity for help to ensure a smooth transition.
Clear communication is one of the most important attributes of a productive work environment. When you take the time to write down instructions and then provide them step by step verbally, as well, you help ensure that employees really know what you’re trying to say.