Good leaders are great at motivating their team, but when you’re a busy manager, there is a risk that you focus on all the tasks and problems and jobs to be done and easily forget to keep your team happy and motivated.
A key part of this is how you allocate the work, or who gets what. Ideally, the tasks are matched to the areas of interest and skill for each person. So, if a person is interested in something but not very skilled at it yet, you’d give them a relatively easy task in that area. Of course, you’d also look at how busy each person is, and if it’s a task that nobody likes, share it out fairly.
But managers often forget all about this, and they just give the task to the person who can do it most quickly. Sometimes this means that they do it themselves.
In general, as a manager gets better at allocating tasks, they move up through four levels:
Level 1. Doing everything yourself. Clearly, you don’t want to be at this level!
Level 2. Giving tasks to the “best” person. This means the person who can do it quickest or most easily. This is fine if it’s an emergency and you just need the task done, but it forgets the whole area of personal development and boredom vs. motivation.
Level 3. Giving tasks to the person who will find them interesting or a challenge. Ideally, if the task has a difficulty of 7/10, you’d give it to someone who is at a skill level of 6/10, so they’d get a feeling of challenge and then success and growth. This is the essence of coaching; you are giving them tasks just slightly harder so they keep on learning, and you’re there to help them if they need help.
If you give the 7/10 task to someone whose skill is already at 9/10, they’ll be bored by it. They could be doing something at a difficulty of 9 or 10/10 that you’ll otherwise probably end up having to do yourself. Of course, you shouldn’t give the 6/10 person nothing but 7/10 tasks, as that would exhaust them, so you should mostly give them 4s, 5s, and 6s, but every now and then, give them a 7 so they can keep on developing.
Level 4. Starting with the person rather than the task, you think to yourself, “What would motivate them?” For example, you might think, “She’s at a skill level of 6/10 in this area, so what can I find for her to do that’s at 7/10—something she will enjoy, but that will stretch her to the limit of her abilities so she gets a nice feeling of succeeding at a challenge?” It’s similar to Level 3, but the other way around.
Every now and then, you ideally ask yourself, “Fred is at 7/10—does he have any challenges on his plate at the moment, anything that’s going to stretch him, that’s at 9/10, and that will give him a sense of achievement when he completes it?”
I recommend that each month, you take a short amount of time to think about how you’re doing in this area. Perhaps put a repeating reminder in your planner so you don’t forget, and think about each person in turn.
Homework: For the people who work for you, think about whether they each have enough difficult work allocated to them to keep them learning and getting a sense of achievement. Also, I recommend setting up a habit, perhaps even with a planner reminder, to have a monthly task allocation review in your head.
See you tomorrow when we’ll be looking at The Freedom Ladder!
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