What is your employee thinking?

One key principle of the Management By Delegation Program is to “delegate through the lens of the employee.”  This is highly useful. The trick is how to accomplish this mind melding level of communication. Science sheds light on how this works. In a recent article, in Discover magazine, Amy Barth discusses research completed by Lauren Silbert at Princeton in an article entitled “Good Listeners Get Inside Your Head.”  This research involves some pretty complicated Neuroscience around how the brain can “anticipate” what may be going on in another person’s brain during communication. So what does this have to do with management by delegation? A whole bunch!

It turns out that when a “listener” pays particularly close attention to the other person’s communication, the  brain activity of the listener closely matches the brain activity of the communicator. The more attentive the  listener, the closer the brain-activities match. The most surprising finding was that the more focused and  attentive listeners were able to “anticipate” what the communicator would say!
According to Silbert, “the  more you anticipate someone, the more you are able to enter their space.” Not only is this extraordinarily  important in the context of effective listening, it can be applied to the art & science of managing the project  delegation process used daily by managers everywhere.

Delegating past Time & Attention

The entire process of delegating work assignments that result in effective execution is significantly improves when the manager delegates through the lens of the employee. The actual inhibitors here are time and attention. Most managers do not take the time needed to think about how the employee sees the delegated assignment and listen to their communication around the delegation discussion. We are not talking about significant increases in the time needed to delegate. In fact, any additional time spent better communicating is substantially outweighed by the effectiveness of the results. Based on this science, there are several key techniques a manager might employ to increase the effectiveness of delegation.

2 Keys to Delegating Work Assignments

  1. Think ahead about how the Employee might see the Assignment – Where a manager is going to delegate an important task or project action step, they can stop and think about how the employee may see the assignment. Give some thought to past experience with this employee’s assignments. What is the employee involved in now that might affect their perception of the added task? What has been the history of this persons execution of work? What is going on in their business or personal life that could affect how they engage the new assignment? Just think about these items and then be prepared to communicate accordingly.
  2. When Communicating a Work Assignment, Listen, Listen, Listen – the ongoing science of communication clearly supports the importance of effective listening. Do we apply this lesson, which we have all heard before? We are talking about the intensity level and focus of how we listen to others. For the manager, when delegating and discussing the task to be given, the responses of the employee are essential to effective delegation. The manager needs to ask questions to clarify and make sure the employee has understood the assignment. By working hard to become an “attentive listener” the manger will get a much better look at how the employee is thinking about the assignment. The manager can anticipate their responses and then seek better clarification.
The result of this focused and attentive listening is clarity. Clarity for the employee regarding the details of ” What” needs to be done. “How” it needs to be done and “When” it needs to be done. Clarity for the manager in reaching a common understanding and acceptance of the work assignment between the two parties. Both the employee and the manager conclude the discussion with more confidence in the assignment’s requirements. The result is much higher levels of implementation success. The bottom line for managers, for the few minutes it takes to delegate and discuss a given assignment…be the most attentive listener possible.

Photo  CC BY CCO Public Domain


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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