Giving instructions – How to Delegate Effectively – How to be assertive.
By Vaughan Rimbault
I attended this morning workshop in Pietermaritzburg recently, as a special guest of the presenter, Brenda Eckstein. Through a chance lucky draw book prize at the last KZN Branch dinner, I made contact with Brenda in connection with her prize book “ABCs of Effective Networking” which offers 52 weekly topics to consider. Within a few meetings Brenda invited me to this particular workshop as a way of getting to know her and her business a little better. At my prompting, Brenda has also made application to SAIMechE for membership as an Associate, and as networking is precisely what SAIMechE is all about we look forward to what she has to show us.
Brenda has a very engaging and articulate manner which makes it easy to follow her discussion. She presents a well polished workshop which flows well and keeps the delegates involved to the last. Participation is a key element of the event. The workshop manual was used throughout, and was clearly arranged and laid out.
We started off by preparing our own “30 second commercial” – what we would like to say to introduce ourselves when we meet new people. Mine was:
“My name is Vaughan Rimbault. I’m from SAIMechE. I’m happy to be here because I’ll meet new people, develop new skills, and relax away from the demands of work. I am the Boss and I think I deserve this workshop” Apart from the humour, our 30 second commercial should be appropriate to the context within which an introduction is being made. 30 seconds is actually a long time for an introduction, so be prepared to break it up into smaller bits and introduce them as you go along. Try to introduce some unique aspect in your commercial that the other person might be able to comment on, and thus start a conversation.
Using simple role plays, Brenda stressed that the essence of a message transmitted from one human being to another is influenced by external and internal factors, and that we should never assume that someone has understood our message just because we have given it to them. Feedback is a critical element in ensuring that messages and instructions are accurately transmitted as intended.
We spent some time asking questions of ourselves as a communication self-assessment. This seemed to be too good to be true. On reflection, how do I get an idea of how I communicate if only I am doing the evaluation? How do I see myself and experience my own communication? I should be asking the questions on my effectiveness to the other people at the table. I was a bit disappointed at the time as this was one of my own objectives to achieve in the workshop. I don’t have many employees to delegate to, and they are all mature professionals who need little instruction. No of them have the time to take on any further delegation from me, so the opportunity to obtain a new perspective on my communication skills was attractive.
In order to illustrate the importance of context and prior experience in writing instructions, we were each asked to write our own instructions for making a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich. It was not long into the exercise when we realised how difficult it is to write effective instructions. With no given reference about the person for whom we were writing the instruction, we had no idea of how much instruction to include. Do we need to explain what bread is? Is it important whether the cheese is grated or sliced? What’s a tomato? And a sandwich toaster? Many permutations and possibilities, each an opportunity for confusion and frustration. To give instructions effectively, the prior learning and experience of the person to whom you are giving the instruction needs to be considered carefully. Rather “over” instruct than “under” instruct.
The 10 steps to effective delegation provided a worthwhile structure around which to develop a delegating strategy. Choosing the right person, explaining why you are asking, and define the result were the first 3 of these steps. Each required a pause for reflection on the task to be delegated. A comprehensive method to achieve effective delegation. The general rule: “Don’t keep the cake and give away the crumbs” Delegation is a method of making sure the right people are doing the right jobs at the right time. It’s not about giving away the jobs you don’t like to someone else – usually your junior. Delegation can take place downwards, sideways and even upwards.
Differentiating between assertiveness and aggression is a key element to maintaining a positive influence in the organisation. Being assertive in a positive manner produces good results. Being assertive does not mean you always get your own way. Being assertive means been able to influence how to achieve the best result. Emotions need to be tightly controlled so as not to slip into aggression. Aggressive behaviour targets the person – assertive behaviour targets the problem. Be prepared to listen to reasonable alternatives, but reserve the right to disregard them. Take full responsibility for your assertiveness – be prepared to walk the walk once you’ve talked the talk. Assertiveness requires a clear message of acknowledgment of the views and opinions of others together with the authority to make the final decision.
As was expected the workshop finished right on time. The company was pleasant, the tea treats were tasty, and I felt that most participants went away feeling better about themselves, their working environment, and their ability to make a difference in it. I believe the workshop presents a fair value exchange and I would recommend it – particularly if a number of people from the same organisation can attend. Nicely done, Brenda.