Employee motivation is a recurrent problem creating stress at work for managers, employees, and just about everyone who works with people. In this post, Professor Jeffrey Ford, an expert on personal leadership effectiveness, succinctly describes how to delegate a task to ensure clarity and increase motivation.

As an added bonus, readers of Reframing Change will recognize that these are a great set of questions for testing assumptions about expectations – whether you are the delegator of the task or the person to whom the task is assigned.

I am grateful to Professor Ford for giving me permission to reproduce this gem of a post.


Get Better Results from Other People

By Jeffrey Ford, on January 27th, 2011

One of the persistent questions I get from people in my classes and training sessions is “What can I do to motivate people to give me work that is complete, accurate, and on time? I am tired of the excuses.” Fair question, though I think it is misdirected. It attributes the problem to their motivation rather than to the quality of the request and promise being made.

If you want to improve the quality and timeliness of what you get back from people, then start making good requests and getting good promises. By good requests and promises, I mean ones in which both parties are clear they are in a performance conversation for giving their word and are awake to what they are committing each other to. All too frequently, people make “drive by requests” and “drive by promises” – ones that are made on the run or while doing something else and where at least one party is not completely present to what they are promising. The result is that what gets delivered is not always accurate, complete, or timely. Making good requests and getting good promises are integral to personal leadership effectiveness.

A good promise is one that is made in response to a good request, and here is how you make a good request:

Step 1:
Request what you want, by when you want it, and explain why it matters.

Step 2:
Get answers to each of the following questions:

1. Do you have any questions about what I want, when I want it, or why?

2. Are you available to do this? Do you see when you could do the work? Are you aware of anything that could keep you from completing it on time?

3. Do you have some ideas as to how this might be done? [This is particularly important when requesting something they haven’t done before.]

4. Do you have the necessary information and resources or do you know where to get them? [This can change over the duration of a project as things that were not known become known – one reason why you would want to schedule progress reports.]

5. Are you accepting my request?

When you get answers that leave you confident the work will be completed accurately, completely, and on time, you have a “good” promise. If you are not confident, explore the answers that give you concern until you are confident. It is better to withdraw a request you are not confident will be completed than to “hope” it will get done.

Peter Bergmann suggests that the secret to ensuring follow through is to create and use a checklist when making each request. Using a checklist (see Bergmann’s checklist) as a matter of policy increases the likelihood of making good requests, increases consistency (which builds trust), and makes the interaction easier.

Reproduced with permission of Jeffrey Ford, Professor of Management in the Max M. Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, and author of The Four Conversations, www.professorford.com


Filed under: achieving your goalsbuilding effective relationshipsconscious use of selfhealthy organizationsinfluencing othersmaking positive changestesting assumptions

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