“What is the task list?”
“Can you give me a checklist?”
“What exactly do you need from me?”
Those are all smart questions that you hear from employees from time to time. For the sake of avoiding confusion and misunderstandings, we recommend that you provide employees with specific details whenever you delegate work to them.
However, when they focus too much on the specifics and details, employees can lose sight of the overall purpose of an assignment and how it connects to the larger picture of the organization’s goals and success.
As leader, you need to take steps to ensure that doesn’t happen. After all, for employees to totally commit to a project or task (and do their best work), they have to believe that it is a meaningful contribution that helps the team and organization move closer to its goals.
Follow these tips to ensure that your employees don’t get bogged down by the details and lose that important big-picture perspective:
- Share the big picture often. If you have team meetings, are you talking about the organization’s objectives and purpose regularly? If you make the big picture a consistent part of your message, employees will understand the goals that drive all business decisions, change intiatives and new assignments.
- Connect the big picture to their work. Employees can understand the overall goals of the team or organization, but still fail to see how their everyday efforts ultimately contribute to the big picture. Don’t assume people understand why their work is important. Whenever you assign tasks, even seemingly insignificant ones, explain how it contributes to the overall mission. For example, “When you enter this data into the system accurately, it’s easier to sort, which makes the whole department more efficient. As you know, that’s a big goal for us this year.”
- Match your style to your employees. If you try to give employees the big picture first, they may tune you out. Some people generally need to know how they will be affected first before they buy-in to a task. So offer the details or steps of a role or task first, and then explain how it fits into the big picture. Other people want to start with the overall goals first and then learn the details of the role they’ll play. Know your employees well enough so that you can match their perferences when you bring new assignments to them.
- Ask them for their perspective. Instead of always spelling it out for employees, ask them “How does this task fit into the overall goals for the team?,” “How will this support the organization’s mission of …,?” or “What will be the outcome for the team/organization if you do this task really well?” Those types of questions, asked regularly and often, allow you to assess your employees’ ability to see the big picture beyond their own workload. Additionally, you continuously encourage them to think about how their efforts contribute to the organization as a whole.
In the end, the most important thing you can do is to provide your employees with purpose and meaning. Most people want to make a difference. When you tell employees what the organization is all about, where it’s headed and the strategy for getting there, they begin to understand how they can help the organization achieve its goals. They see how they can make difference, and that can motivate them to go above and beyond to do so.
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