Summer is coming to a close and many of you are coming back from vacations and wondering why nothing you left to your colleagues to accomplish was completed to your satisfaction. I’ve got news for you – it’s probably your fault for not properly assigning tasks and not clearly defining what the deliverables were supposed to be/achieve. Let’s look at some basic strategies to keep in mind – before you plan that next scuba diving trip.
Unique Abilities. Many of the things you do for your company come naturally to you. They fall within your unique abilities – whether it’s your innate ability to project manage, interact with clients, market your products or abilities communicating on social media. But keep in mind that your colleagues have their own unique abilities and might not grasp the intricacies of what you are working towards. So you have to be cognizant of this and build that into the equation when you off-load your workload. Your goal should be to fully explain context, expectations and then encourage your colleague to own the project while you are away. Ownership responsibility is the only way your colleague will take a vested interest in the work.
Plan Ahead. The most important aspect of assigning tasks and responsibilities while going on vacation is to plan ahead. Well ahead! Don’t expect anyone to respond as you might expect when they just get a brief “can you look after this while I’m away?” Take a few minutes to define what you are working on, what the outcome looks like, and the benchmarks of progression. Be brief, but be informative.
Communication. When you have the actual assignment discussion, your focus must primarily be on the colleague you are assigning tasks to. Your attitude should be, “What can I do to help you succeed?” The discussion should center around:
- Putting the assignment/tasks into context so that they understand why they are getting the assignment/tasks and how it fits into their role within the company.
- Explain what the critical deliverables or outcomes are, why they are important, and how they will impact the company.
- Clearly define expectations on how they will drive the assignment to completion – establishing a clear plan of action that includes communicating their progress.
- Focus on communicating throughout the discussion that you are focused on their success.
Framing the conversation in this way allows you to introduce the idea of ownership. While ownership doesn’t mean “do it anyway you like” you do need to instill some trust into the equation. That’s why progress reports (perhaps to another manager or higher level of management) are important, since you want to be able to enjoy your vacation and not be glued to your phone. The bottom line is, you are there to support and assist them, not vice versa.