One prominent mistake managers make daily in the workplace is the ability to assign a task to subordinates effectively. Often, managers are vague in their directive, not specific about what a good job looks like, or think that they don’t have time to explain a task in detail. What they are not realizing is that being clear from the onset ensures less back and forth later and results that are more aligned with expectations. Also, effectively assigning tasks will maximize your productivity and that of your team. You will tackle more projects, more assignments and create more opportunities for development, which will ultimately lead to more success for your employees.

Assigning a task does not need to be an arduous task, but it does take practice to master. Consider the job and the competence level of the person completing the task, what type of skills are necessary to complete the task successfully, and what kind of employee do they need to emulate for this situation? When assigning tasks, it is essential to make sure the person who is receiving the message understands what you expect from them. 

To succeed, practice and follow our guide for assigning a task clearly:

DELIVERABLES 

What does a well-done job look like regarding this task? 

If you are unable to verbalize what a good job looks like, how are you going to expect your employees to meet those expectations? You need to be able to concisely describe the deliverables you expect from completion of this task, and this may require some preparation before tasking the deliverable. Also, this means appropriately prioritizing tasks for your team. If the final deliverables have specific requirements to meet expectations, is it possible for the employee to complete the job with their current workload? Are there projects that need reprioritizing to make this task happen? As a leader, you need to set a priority system to ensure you are assigning tasks with a clear priority.

COMPETENCIES

What competencies are required to complete the task?

As a manager, you need to recognize if the delegate has the appropriate skills to complete the task. If not, there are additional steps you need to take to support the completion of this task. Perhaps you need to allocate other resources to this person to help them complete the task, or need to consider whether he or she might not be the right person to complete the job. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of your team and recognize when is the appropriate time to provide a growth opportunity for one, or assign it to someone who has the skills to do the task, and will be able to get the job done quickly and effectively.

TIME

How much time is needed to get the job done?

Time can be a significant constraint when it comes to task management. Unfortunately, managers can often mistakenly underestimate how long specific jobs take, resulting in undue stress added to the employee in addition to the manager who is not meeting their targets. It is crucial to consider the following when assigning a task:

  • Have you indicated a clear timeline for the job?
  • Are there repercussions for not completing the task on time?
  • How much time do you expect this task will take for the completed job to meet your expectations?
  • Have you been reasonable with your timeline?

Once you are clear on time required, you must confirm the acceptance of this timeline from your employee. You need to ensure that they accept, understand and are committed to meeting the deadlines you have set, and if not, it may require more support from you to make that happen.

RESOURCES

What resources and tools are needed to complete the tasks?

Resources are people, equipment, place, money, or anything else that you need to do all of the activities that you planned for.  It is essential to state the resources and tools that are available to the employee when assigning a task.  Perhaps they need to use particular software, like Excel, to show pivot tables and graphs. They might not realize when you assigned a marketing budget, that tables and graphics are what you are expecting.  Therefore, you must state resources and tools clearly. Perhaps, they might need to ask someone in another department for some information to complete their task. Unless you say – “Fred will be a good resource to leverage and find out about our legal requirements,” – your employee might miss that step and fail to reach out to others.  You must share the potential resources needed to complete the task to your expectations.

GOALS

How does this task contribute to the greater goals of the organization?

The purpose is a tremendous underlying motivation for employees to complete tasks and projects. If there is no clear purpose to what they are doing, why do it? As a manager, you need to share recent organizational successes and verbalize how this task supports the greater good of the company. If organizational goals have changed recently, be sure to find the time to explain them to your team. Always take time to share the vision and strategy of the organization to support the motivation and direction of your team.

APPLYING TASK DELEGATION IN THE WORKPLACE

It is important to remember that clearly assigning tasks takes practice. Not only do you need to work through the process multiple times to assign tasks successfully, but you might also be required to build other skills to do this effectively. 

Assigning tasks clearly means you are engaging in more conversations with your team, and having this 1:1 time means you need to focus on communication styles and recognize you may need to adapt your message to be understood by your employee. Or maybe these conversations about task management can lead to more coaching conversations or an opportunity to give feedback

Either way, assigning a task is an important skill to learn.  If you follow our five-step guideline, you will be on your way to better communication, and your employees will have a deeper understanding of your expectations.