Managers manage other people and their work by assigning tasks. Sometimes they are tasks for the individual to complete independently, or they could be portions of larger projects. But all managers feel frustrated when tasks are assigned, and then nothing gets done. But that shouldn’t stop you from delegating. Instead, it means that you need to do a better job following up without micromanaging.
The key is to provide clear direction on what is expected when you delegate and ensure that deadlines are understood. Then you, as the manager, need to keep a list of those projects. Too often, we get so busy with our work that we don’t touch base with staff members until the outcome has not been completed by the deadline.
I’ve developed a system for following up loosely based on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system and modified it by how I’ve seen it work best.
The items I track include the things that I’ve delegated to others and verbal requests I make during in-person meetings and phone conversations. I also add to my list those promises that people make to me.
I keep a “Waiting for List” in an electronic format in Nirvana HQ, but you can make a list on paper. I’ve known people who have a list in one of many database systems or Microsoft Excel. Some people I know combine this pending list with their to-do or next action list. I prefer to have a separate list, so it doesn’t clutter my task list. But I review both lists when I prepare my daily 3”x5” card, which serves as a daily reminder of things I need to accomplish.
My list includes these fields:
-Description of the item.
-Name of person(s) that has ownership of the task
-The date it was assigned
-The deadline date
-Plus other pertinent details.
As an example, one of my items might look like this:
1/1/21 – John Smith was assigned to prepare capital inventory for his department. Due 2/1/21
Each week as I compile the things that I want to accomplish, I review this list and ask the person for a progress update during any status meeting we might have scheduled or if I happen to run into that person during the week. If necessary, I will call or email them. I ask what progress has been made if they have run into any problems or need any assistance.
Following that conversation, I make a follow-up note on my list. It might look like this:
1/7/21 – John says he is still on target. He has about 25% of items logged and verified.
Writing down the updates means I not only won’t forget what I’m waiting for but everything that has transpired since it was delegated.
If the item was completed by a person who reports to me, I transfer it to a file that I keep for each staff member. That is helpful when I complete a performance evaluation as it reminds me of their work nature.
If it was a promise kept by a vendor or someone else, I might keep the item in a digital archive so that I can refer back to it should I ever need their help again.
If you think that this process takes too much time, I have found that the few extra minutes it takes to maintain this list is well worth it rather than trusting my memory.
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