Once upon a time there was a boss who wanted to be everyone’s friend. As he tried to be nice, he was indirect in his communication. He wanted everyone to feel like they were on equal footing. He rarely gave direction. Unfortunately for the boss, this left his team members frustrated rather than happy. He actually did have specific ideas about how he wanted certain things done. But team members would not find this out until after they had invested a fair amount into the project.
How far can I go?
Clarity in scope and purpose would have helped this situation a lot. As a manager, you will frequently hear the recommendation to delegate. When you delegate tasks or projects to your team are you clear how far they can go? Do they know the parameters they are working within? Or are you erring on the side of Mr. Nice Guy.
Clarity helps build trust
I am certainly not advocating being a jerk. But without clarity, team members may invest a lot of time pursuing an approach that you are not happy with. Alternatively they may be asking for your direction and input in a case where you do not have strong feelings about an approach. Or you may have sought input and were going to make the final decision but your team got the impression that they would be part of the decision making as well. Each of these instances can create frustration and breed mistrust.
A useful tool for thinking about this issue is Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s delegation continuum.
There could be a step beyond the end of ‘subordinate-centered leadership’ in which the boss defines the end goal and asks the team to define the parameters and scope of the project.
Try it with your team
Have a discussion with your team. Where do you usually fall on the continuum? In what instances do they find the scope of the delegation confusing or unclear? What could bring more clarity to those instances?
When you are delegating a larger project, working with the team to create a project charter can help the group start with greater certainty. This charter should include project goals, roles and responsibilities, timelines, budget. The team should also spend time as they get started talking about how they will work together, how they will make decisions and what skills and talents each person brings to the team.
Lacking shared understanding
So often the challenges at work come down to the lack of shared understanding. How can you use these tools to bring greater shared understanding to how your team and your direct reports work together?
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