Directing: Accomplishing objectives through delegation and motivation

Performing each of the four principles is important to a manager's success; however, the focus of our attention for this Management Matters is directing.


In previous Management Matters, we have discussed to varying degrees the four principles of management. Because they serve as the foundation of the tasks that you perform as a manager, let's quickly review what the four principles are and what each encompasses as it relates to a manager.

  • Planning - Basically during operational planning, a manager will decide how to implement the organization's strategic plan by establishing objectives, devising a course of action to accomplish the plan, determining appropriate measurements that will reflect the progress, and setting a schedule for accomplishing the plan.

  • Organizing - While organizing, the manager is getting his or her hands around three important elements - the work, the people, and the workplace.

  • Controlling - When the plan is implemented and the work begins, the manager should have a system in place that will measure how well things are going. The measurement system will help the manager maintain control.

  • Directing - Directing implies dealing exclusively with people. A manager learns to delegate responsibility to competent people by explaining to and motivating others to accomplish the required tasks.

Performing each of the four principles is important to a manager's success; however, the focus of our attention for this Management Matters is directing.

Most of us would agree that doing something yourself in many cases is easier than getting someone else to do it. Managers who used their skills for many years as technicians often know how to do tasks as well, if not better, than those they manage. In a case like this, the natural tendency would be to take the short cut and perform the task yourself.

What is the problem if a manager pursues this route more often than not? Other than the obvious, which is the manager is not applying one of the basic principles of management, directing; the less obvious is the longer-term effect it has on the organization. First, the technicians that do not know how to do the tasks will not develop their skills as rapidly. This exposes the organization to an eventual risk that could eventually affect the quality of the work performed and cause a reduction in productivity. Less-trained and experienced technicians will take longer to complete a given amount of tasks.

Second, the manager is not leveraging his or her knowledge by sharing his or her experience. Can you get more work done if two people know how to do a task rather than one? In all of my years spent interacting with maintenance departments, I've never heard anyone complain that they have too much time on their hands. Not surprisingly, it's the exact opposite. If indeed that's the case then having the ability to direct others extends the manager's capabilities and knowledge.

I'd like to emphasize one point before I move on. This is for the managers that insist on keeping information "close to the vest", because you perceive that it makes you more important to the organization. You know the creed by which you operate: the person that holds the information maintains control. Stop it! There are other ways to maintain control. Besides by keeping that attitude, you are not fulfilling your role as a manager and you are hurting your organization.

As a manager, if working through others is so important then how do you become efficient at directing? First of all, let's recognize what you are really doing when you are directing. Actually, you are delegating. By delegating, you are shifting the performance of the tasks to someone else. However, the responsibility for getting the work done and done correctly has not. That still falls to you. Without going into detail, as this subject is worthy of its own article, listed below are some of the major points that you might want to keep in mind when delegating.

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