Whether delegating at work or receiving assignments, skillfully and politely communicating with colleagues is key to workplace success.
“When delegating, clear communication is your number one priority,” said Yaffa V., a lawyer who has led teams of various sizes in varied workplaces, such as a law firm, a government office, and a private company. “Don’t assume that your co-workers live in your brain. Take the time to explain exactly what you need.”
The following are some tips for project managers.
1.“One mistake I have made is giving instructions too quickly and not being 100% clear on what I really need,” the lawyer said. “We need to relay clear visions of what we most want
Provide plenty of background information: Set up employees for success by telling them everything they might need to know about their projects, the people they are dealing with, and everything about what is expected.
2. AMA: “Ask Me Anything: Make it clear you are available to answer any questions. Employees who are scared they will be embarrassed if they ask questions will not be able to provide their best work. Employers who don’t know the answers to questions should consider where answers might be found so employees know where to look to do their jobs well.
“The more questions colleagues ask, the better,” points out Yaffa V. “The more they understand what they are doing, the less time they waste, and the better job they will do.”
“After assigning tasks, a good manager will guide employees when they need additional information or perspectives,”.
3. Provide examples of work you like: Send models of previously done projects that are similar to what is assigned so employees know what they are aiming for.
4. Clarify deadlines: Always provide a specific date and time by which you need the work you are assigning. Clearly communicate whether projects are “urgent” or don’t need to be rushed.
5. Check-in: When working with new hires, after projects are a quarter of the way done, politely check in with colleagues to ensure they are on the right track. But once co-workers understand the ropes, demonstrate trust by checking in minimally and allowing them to work in peace.
6. Speak and text politely: No one wants to hear “Do this!” or “Make that!” Show respect for your co-workers by saying, “Please” and “Thank you.” Show gratitude for co-workers’ efforts. If you can, tell people what you liked about what they did so they can keep meeting your expectations. Everyone works best when they feel appreciated and all interactions are low-key and positive.
“Make sure everyone feels good about the work they do both individually and when they collaborate,” Yaffa said.
7. Communicate that all employees work for the same team: “Use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ and ‘you’ to communicate that everyone works together for a common goal. Regularly communicate the company’s mission to everyone in meetings, emails, and texts so everyone understands their goal.
Clarify and continue to update as necessary employees’ roles in the team.
8. Speak gently when providing feedback. Try using “the sandwich method” by giving one positive comment before and any necessary critiques. Never speak harshly so as not to demoralize or degrade people. Make sure all conversations are constructive, productive, and understanding.
9. “Think carefully about the employees you choose to take on different assignments,” pointed out Shlomo B., a leader in a law firm for 30 years. “After you work with people for a while, you know at what levels they function and what they are capable of producing. Managers should distribute work according to employees’ areas of expertise, competence, and experience.”
10. “Responsiveness” is the key on both ends. Managers and employees should not be expected to “Stop, Drop, and Roll” when they are texted, but at the same time, co-workers should respond to each other relatively quickly so everyone can complete assigned tasks.
11. Employees who receive assignments should think carefully about the types of tasks that their employers most need.
“The best is when employees anticipate what I need and provide it without my even asking,” Yaffa explains. “Employees should take the initiative when appropriate and propose any work they see is needed.”