Delegation Keys to Success: Communication


Communication is often called the key to success. If one considers communication as an integral and interactive process that includes effective listening, then it probably is.

For the purpose of this article, communication will be discussed only in the terms of delegation. There are many other aspects of communication issues, especially in the international markets that have grown rapidly for both large and small business. In the delegation process, communication happens at every level, because it is a constant back and forth affair between a manager and his employee.

From the beginning of the process, as the manager sorts out tasks to be delegated, and begins to draft the timeline and the goals and objectives, she will be talking, learning, and getting the specific information about the task at hand. The communication goes up, and it comes down. The interaction between various parts of a business or an office is an on-going system. In the process of delegation, the manager will find herself delivering information, working the give and take of establishing the goals with objectives on how they will be reached, and clarifying his assignments.

During the task production, the manager coaches and trains as the need arises. If the manager is proactive and moves her team members to best use skills, develop new ones, and bring out creativity in every staff member, then she is sure to find herself in the role of instructor. If her instructions are clearly communicated, she should expect the intended result. If not, then the product or the production may suffer.

Focus Points:

1. Giving instruction requires patience, time, knowing your subject, and knowing your staff .

Think about preparing to teach or coach a member of your team about some critical new software that you have been trained to use. You practice it until you know it well. You have the manual handy and organize your notes. You don't have to become an expert, but your skills demand that you are able to explain and demonstrate correctly. If, as you coach, you become confused -- stop. Don't waste your staff member's time by trying to continue ill prepared. Admit that you need more practice to teach that point and, end the session. It is a good manager who can admit to an employee that he needs to work on his skills.

Develop an outline of the steps or directions that must be followed. Under each step, list some points that you will hit. To learn a new skill, it helps to have it chunked into parts. The brain will assimilate it better, than if given in a complex packet. Prepare a project to use in the process with the new software, so as you follow the steps, it can be demonstrated and practiced.

Set up short periods of time over several days, as opposed to stretching the instruction into one long day. Research has shown that after a couple of hours, people lose their focus and learning wanes. Keep an informal atmosphere, so your employee isn't threatened or uncomfortable. Observe your staff, and understand how each one differs in their work. Some prefer to listen first, get it organized in their head, and then try. Others will want to do the activity as you talk them through it. Still some may need to visualize as they work with new information. Diagrams, outlines, or other organizational charts could further clarify what it is you must explain. If you know your staff before you begin, or a little about how they best learn new skills, you will get better results.

Demonstrate patience. As a manager you cannot lose your temper, be punitive, or bullish with your employees. It will drive a wedge into your relationship and only serve to inhibit them. A staff that is put into a corner will eventually find a way out. It is far less stressful to put time into building up the current staff, than trying to find someone new, who will certainly have quirks of his own.

2. Communication is a two-way street when instruction is involved.

You knew this already. In delegation, it is important to both give and receive information. That means it is interactive. You and someone else exchanging thoughts, working to understand each other's thinking, and allowing each time to process. Processing information happens in various ways. A person might need to make notes, draw pictures, pause and let it "sink in," or ask you to repeat what you just told him. Your job, after giving information, is to listen to his response. It is critical. That is how you know if he is learning or not. That is how you find out if you have taught it or not. You see, in communication, failure to learn can be the fault of either the teacher, the student, or both. It is often difficult to figure it out. But failure to learn just means you re-teach, not give up.

Establishing a rapport with your staff is so important. Then when you get into this situation, you will tend to be forgiving of each other, be able to laugh together, and find ways to make it work, instead of letting miscommunication cause a total breakdown.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Delegation Skills course?

Success does not mean the lack of failure. It isn't that instruction works the first time through. Success is being able to work together, bend with each other, and keep going -- until the mission is accomplished. It is successful, even if you have to go over and over a part or two. Most people do require re-teaching several times to construct a mental framework for mastery of new learning.

3. Communication is a complicated brain process.

Without going into the scientific terminology, drawing pictures, or diving into an area better left to medical professionals, we know the brain process for receiving and expressing information has been much studied to reveal that it is quite complicated. This is a good point to remember when you are put into the role of instructor in the act of delegation.

It is easy to understand some of the basis for this process, however. For example, the way we receive and process what comes through our eyes, visually, is very different from how we process auditory information, even happening in different parts of the brain. There are people who can understand conceptual information without accommodation, while others require concrete manipulatives to pick up or move around. Some of us learn when it is noisy, while others need extreme quiet to process new information. Each of our brains perceive information in many different ways and at different levels.

To top it all off, we are, every one of us, a mix of these variations, and in varying degrees. All one has to know and understand to teach a concept, a lesson, or a new software program and get good results is that you must have a good grasp on it yourself and you must be prepared to meet your student where she best learns.

4. Communication has to be constantly assessed throughout instruction.

Think about your conversations with others. You continually say something, then look for signs of comprehension, or listen for the other person to state something that lets you know understanding has taken place. It may be a nod, a soft verbal, "Hmmm," or a blank look. Body language is a big part of communicating in instruction. Stay aware.

Watch people. You can tell when they are interested, bored, tired, excited, thinking, or any of the other thousands of things felt in a day. This is done so naturally. If you go to another culture, it is more difficult. You are always questioning if you are communicating effectively or not. Our words, our phrasing, our movements, and facial expressions are practiced with each other from the time of birth. We are constantly assessing our communication with others.

When, as manager, you are coaching someone, you should have a good feel about communicating with that person -- though the person might be new to you, introverted, or difficult to get a read on. Learning to ask questions in specific ways, to watch tiny movements, and to listen carefully, will help. The key is to have the person explain back what you say in their own words. Listen again. Did you hear that they had the idea?

Ask for a demonstration just after one small step at a time. Help them make mental connections from the new learning, to things already known. You can help a person process the information if you guide their mind, their mental conceptions, and do lots of stopping and checking.

Being able to explain in their own words, to draw a diagram, to demonstrate, to reproduce are all ways to assess if learning is taking place. Watching the person closely as you train to learn their habits, their "tells" of comprehension will give you more confidence over time about their learning processes and mastery of a concept. Remember to work in steps, and use the sensory input that works best for your student.


You have decided to delegate an assignment to a team member who has worked with you for a long time. The assignment involves an account with a client who is highly valued by your company. Though you trust the team member to do the job well, they have never dealt with people from a different culture and it is part of the requirement.

You set up a series of meetings for training, instruction, and to present the information necessary for a successful delegation of authority. At the first meeting, you go to the member's desk and look over the company's white papers to give an overview of the company's basic structure, goals, and production. By meeting your employee at their own desk, you are making several statements. You are openly letting others aware of what is happening at the beginning of the process. You make a statement that there is nothing special or secretive about the decision, and if you do this often, your group will see that the work is spread evenly and all are given chances to move forward in different ways.

Another statement you are making is that this job, as all should, requires some instruction. Instruction should be part of the delegation process with everyone and not limited to just those who might be new, quiet, or appear slow. Make the first meeting short, introductory, and an invitation to be part of the assignment. At the next meeting, call the member into your office -- or better -- into a conference room, and show them a video used to learn about the culture of the area the client is from. Again, this should be informal and comfortable. Alert your member about a class they should sign up for to learn some of the language. You don't have to instruct every part of what needs to be learned.

You know this team member is a visual learner, because you have witnessed them in meetings drawing figures and diagrams as they listen. So you prepare some visual charts of the client's production process and outcomes, as well as the goals of the assignment, with other information to make the task understood and the outcomes successful.

The timeline and goals, with objectives to be met, monitor dates noted, and specific assignments are given, all in a timely manner -- and the shift happens. Lots of conversation, communicating back and forth, time for the concepts to process and meld into the team member's head, happen during this time of teaching. The results are good, the team member is moved into a relationship with the client and the manager backs out to become only a support role preparing for the next delegation mission.

Set up your physical or computerized notebook:

For this article's materials, go to the Internet. Search "brain processing and learning styles." Save or print out some basic information about different learning styles to have for reference and become familiar with them. In effective instruction, this will serve you well.


1. In the process of delegation, what does it mean to say communication goes up and down?

2. What is a learning style?

3. How can you communicate fairness and trust openly?

4. How do you assess that you are communicating effectively?

If you are unsure of these considerations, go back and review the material.