Delegate employees properly: 10 tips for better communication


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The ability to hand over tasks to others is critical to personal success. However, this does not always work smoothly and without misunderstandings. Tips on how to properly communicate tasks and goals to others.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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What the ex-head of state says about delegating

The idea for this post came to me some time ago interviewed former Icelandic head of state Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. She told me her secret of how to balance child and career: organization. You have to cooperate with others and look for help.

It was then that I realized how important the ability to hand over work to others is for your own success. All discussions about time management tools, tools and to-do lists are void if you cannot hand in tasks that you can no longer do yourself. Or to put it a little provocatively with dm founder Götz Werner, who said exactly that at Republica 2010: "You only earn money if others work for you."

Delegate: Between fear and half-heartedness

It is no coincidence that I am writing about an “ability”: Many people find it difficult to delegate tasks to others and to give up control to some extent. Of course, trust in others cannot be learned overnight. But once you have successfully given up the first small tasks, you will see that over time it becomes easier to relinquish control. And always keep in mind: If you cannot do the work yourself due to time constraints or want to save time in one work step, there is no way around handing over tasks to others. So you have no choice but to deal with the subject of delegation.

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However, I very often experience that delegation is only carried out half-heartedly: although the work is passed on, it is implicitly expected that the work will be done exactly as you would do it - but without expressly expressing it. Not everything you say when you delegate a task to others is understood exactly as you mean it. And often enough, the correct execution of the task suffers from the fact that the other person simply misunderstood the matter. Or, as the saying goes in linguistics: What matters is not what was meant, but how the other person understands it.

The difficulties lie in communication

Delegating does not mean that you simply give the instruction according to the motto: “Do it until the day after tomorrow!” Even if you could theoretically do that as a boss, you shouldn't utter it that way, because the command tone is rarely well received.

Of course, this procedure is even less appropriate if you want to ask an equal colleague to do some work for you. In any case, it is better to have a constructive conversation with the person concerned and make sure that everything is understood exactly - this is the only way you can be sure that the task will be carried out as you mean it.

10 tips for proper delegation

  • Select: It starts with the selection of the person to whom you assign the task. This should be well considered: can you fully trust this person? Does she have similar values ​​and goals as you do, is she motivated similarly? It is not for nothing that a hot battle for the best brains rages in companies: It is actually the most difficult part of the whole thing to find the right person for a task.
  • Differentiate: There are jobs that are easier to delegate than others. This includes routine tasks such as typing or organizing. Special tasks that you are not familiar with yourself should also be delegated to specialists. You should generally do other tasks yourself: For example, those in which you are needed as a person, such as representation tasks or dealing with customers.
  • Motivate: A basic problem is that the other person may not approach the matter with the same level of motivation as yourself. The matter is not as important to him as it is to you. You can't change that and you shouldn't expect too much, but you can motivate yourself: Tell your employee why you just handed the task over to him. This trust is motivating.
  • Clear announcement: One reason why delegating often goes wrong is because of misunderstandings. Make it clear what exactly should be done. Discuss all requirements regarding quantity and quality. Pay attention to precise formulations, avoid relativising plasticizers and make sure by asking that the other person has understood everything. "I want you to work through file X, which is now on my desk, for me by 12 noon tomorrow, and to write down any contradicting information." Do not confuse clear work instructions with control: the other person should know what to do, but do not deny them the ability to think for themselves. A tightrope walk.
  • Describe the goal: Make sure you describe the goal, not the process itself. You may be able to make some suggestions for execution. The other person has the freedom to decide how he wants to do the work. This personal responsibility promotes motivation. "I expect the presentation to be ready by tomorrow."
  • Inform: Make sure not only that you place the order in an understandable manner, but also that you include everything that is important for its execution: “So that you know what it is about, I would like to provide you with the following facts and information ... The following materials… ”Do not assume that the other person has already received important information, but make sure, for example by asking, that this is really the case.
  • Set goals together: If possible, determine the time of completion together with the other: “I would be very happy if the task was completed by the end of the week. What is your schedule? When can the task be finished?… The day after tomorrow? Well, let's set this date… ”If that doesn't work, explain why the end date has already been set:“ Unfortunately, I can't give a longer deadline because the customer insists on the corresponding delivery date ... ”
  • Buy Sense make clear: People do not like to do work, the meaning of which they do not understand. Therefore, make it explicitly clear what the purpose of this work step is and why the task is important. If the other person understands this, he will work much better. But don't forget that employees may have different goals and ideas than you yourself. So always try to convey to others why achieving this goal also benefits you personally.
  • To ask: Did the other person really understand what to do and how? Is he as motivated as you imagine? You should make sure of this, instead of simply trusting that you will be fine. But be careful: the sound makes the music. Never get pampy if the other person does not react as you imagined. This only demotivates unnecessarily.
  • If things go wrong: Delegating can also go horribly wrong. Then it doesn't help to get angry, but to deal with the problem constructively. Ask yourself: "Have I always taken the time to explain the task in detail?" Another person may not have done something to your satisfaction simply because they did not understand how you imagined the result.

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