Using Visual Imagery in Delegating Work Assignments

Photo / by Pedor Ribeiro Slimoes / CC BY 2.0 

Those managers who I have worked with in coaching for delegation skills, and anyone who has read articles and blogs our our website, know how strong a position is taken on delegating in “visual ways” when communicating assignments.  When you are managing a work unit and delegate assignments as part of a Project Plan or an important assignment, significant execution improvement can be made using visualization.  Here we are talking about creating clear pictures & images for the person receiving the delegated assignment.  Helping them to visualize the assignment is of significant help to their performance.  The end result is better execution and improved delivery of the assigned task.

Most managers begin to quickly get the importance of this and are able to build better “visual communication” into their delegation.  That said, many struggle with the concept or do not place enough importance on it.  Management techniques, and the process of coaching managers on better skills, is often an experienced based process.  You do it because you have found that it really works based on our actual experience over time.  The good news is that there is a scientific basis and argument for how effective visual delegation techniques can be to managing people at work.  While avoiding a too technical explanation is generally a good thing, providing a scientific framework can prove effective.  A close look at some basic science behind how people think and the functioning of the conscious mind will illustrate why visual delegation works so well.

Consciousness & Visual Delegation Skills

In a recent article form Discover Magazine entitled Of Two Minds,  a review of the “Steps to Consciousness” from Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s book Self Come to Mind was presented.  The article contained concepts I believe explain why and how visual delegation of work assignments can significantly increase employee performance.  To summarize how this plays into delegation, let’s look briefly at the science.

  1. The neurons of the brain are organized into a series of very small circuits that layer on all the others circuits to form the system of our minds.  These networks come together to form instant patterns which Dr. Damasio calls “Mind Maps.”  The significance for understanding how visual delegation is connected to this comes from the fact that these maps rely on your past history, what you may see in the future combined with people and events in the external world to form themselves.  To the extent a manager can help to add to how the mind “maps” a delegated assignment the greater the result.
  2. The key for effective management delegation is that our conscious mind helps us to experience these “Mind Maps” as images. Let’s think of them as visual pictures. Our mind instantly creates these visual pictures when we interact with other people or things from outside our mind (places we have been, objects, experience, input from others).   they combine with the historic experiences already cataloged in our minds.   We think and reason with these visual pictures.
  3. The minds ability to create instant and never ceasing visual pictures continues constantly.  The conscious mind creates images from all the networks in the brain and from new external inputs.  We can “manipulate” these visual pictures and reason out conclusions from them.  This is the process we know as “thinking.”  It is what the employee does when you delegate a task…think in pictures.

The fantastic benefit, not only for communications in general, but for a manager’s ability to make delegation of  important work assignments more effective is to learn to verbalize your instructions in ways that instantly support and expand the visual pictures for the employee.  If we delegate through the Lens of the Employee”, we are supporting the visual picture the employees active mind will create.  If we find clear and vivid visual descriptions of the work that needs to be done, we ADD to the employees visual pictures.  This brings about clarity and mutual understanding.

4 Techniques to Delegating for Results

In order to bring this science back to the practical reality of a manager’s supervision of people and work, consider the following four techniques;

  1. When a manager is preparing how best to communicate assignment for delegation, take just a minute for the Mind to create visual pictures of key aspects of the job to be done.
  2. Determine the visual picture that can best describe “What” needs to be accomplished.  Work it through enough to settle on as clear an image as possible.
  3. Ask yourself if the visual picture you have created is likely to be understood through the Lens of the employee.  Re-work it as necessary given your best understanding of this person.
  4. Describe the “How” of the assignment to be delegated with the same visual picture process used for the “What”. Whatever quality standards, measurements, end result is anticipated from the completed work needs to have a visual image wrapped around it.

Allow the employee a moment to absorb your visual descriptions and form their own image of the task being delegated to them.  Then ask for their “visual picture” of the assignment by simply inquiring...How do you “See” the assignment I have just described? This actually allows and requests that the person receiving the assignment share with the manage the visual picture of the task to be performed as they understood it.  If the visual picture is not exactly right, the manager can help to clear up the picture. The manager can align how the manager “Sees” the assignment with how the employee “Sees” the assignment the manager just described.  Inconsistencies can be cleaned up.  Questions or uncertainty will be uncovered and corrected.

The end result will be the manager’s ability to communicate their delegation by creating clear visual images of all aspects of the task to be completed.  The employee benefits because they go away with a solid visual picture of the work assignment.  Now their conscious mind can incorporate that into the behaviors, actions and decisions they will make in completing the assignment.  The manager who can work on these simple visual delegation techniques will quickly gain improved productivity and execution.  Everyone wins!

Additional Resources on Visual Imagery

Visual Imagery Brain Tricks




Michael D. Moore is the publisher of Management By Delegation and is a veteran executive with 40+ years in the Banking and Insurance Industries. A devoted entrepreneur, using his business experience to provide resources for managers and leaders at all levels. For the last 5 years, he has built a growing web presence for helping people with personal and professional development. To learn more about these advanced concepts & join our group Click here 5 Must Have Management Skills

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