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.

  • Select the right person. The person should have the necessary technical skills to perform the task and the maturity to handle the responsibility.

  • Clearly define the task that needs to be performed. Two-way communication is important so that you have a good feeling that the person has a clear understanding of the task. By having a conversation, you may also learn that what is clear to you, may not be clear to the other person. It doesn't matter what your perception is, if you want the task accomplished.

  • Set a schedule for completion and some form of measurement that will keep you apprised of the progress of the task. Depending upon the complexity and nature of the task, the measurement can be as simple as periodic conversations or more complex to keep track of multiple tasks and their related deadlines.

  • Assign authority. It is not enough to assign the task. You must also give the person performing the task the necessary authority to get the task done. Few things are more frustrating than being assigned a task without the accompanying authority.

  • Focus on the results. When it's possible worry more about what is getting accomplished than how it is being accomplished. Of course, there are situations where one method is the only method. By focusing more on the results, opportunity exists for a more efficient method to develop.

If delegating is an important part of the management principle called directing, then how a manager chooses to direct must also be important. In other words, how will the manager interact with or delegate to those that work for him or her. There are two aspects of the manager that relate to directing.


Inherent in any management position is some degree of authority. As the principle of directing implies, a manager's position will have other people reporting to it, therefore the manager has some level of authority. The organization's structure and position description more clearly define the level of authority. An organizational chart, which illustrates the structure of the organization, will display the chain of command or in other words illustrate who reports to whom. The position description should state in a greater level of detail, the responsibilities and related authority of a position. Other company documents may further define the level of authority of each position.

Federal regulations also identify the level of authority within the structure of an organization and its maintenance department, especially for the director of maintenance. Without an intimate knowledge of the regulations, I would be willing to guess that while the regulations may not directly state the level of authority, they certainly imply the authority by identifying the director of maintenance position's responsibilities.

If you have the authority as a manager to direct the activities of those that work for you, how do you choose to apply your authority? One way is to tell, dictate, or mandate to those that work for you. Using this method, you choose to rely upon the authority of your position to get tasks accomplished. Notice that nothing is mentioned about asking, two-way communication, or dialogue. You, in this case, have chosen to be authoritative or act as a dictator.

In some situations, this method is appropriate. For example, if you are in a situation that demands immediate attention and the time for discussion is not available, then the authoritarian style is a good choice. Or if your maintenance group does a certain type of inspection frequently, then due to the group's experience, prior planning, and discussion, a more authoritarian approach is effective. Or you may have deadlines to meet and exerting your influence is the most effective approach.

However, over the long term, this method of directing is probably not your most effective method for a couple of reasons. People receive, process, and feed back information differently. Stated more simply, people are different. Because of this small fact about people, the authoritarian approach does not fit all. If you want to get the most out of your people different approaches are advisable.

A second reason the authoritarian approach is not recommended is that you or your organization may not be getting the benefit of ideas that might lead to improvements or a more efficient use of your organization's resources. Even the frequently performed inspections occasionally require a periodic review to determine if you are using your resources appropriately. If you have not created the environment for communication then improvements are not likely to occur because you are not the person that is closest to the actual work.

A third reason the authoritarian approach is not advisable is, who wants to work for a dictator? It's probably a pretty safe statement that even you wouldn't want to work for that type of person. And, the style wears down those that work for you to the point where they almost become robots. They will do exactly as you tell them and nothing more.


If exerting your authority is only appropriate some of the time, then what other approach might work? Why not try managing by leading? Leadership changes all of the negative reasons mentioned earlier into positives for your organization. You should get more production from your people, who will also generate better ideas and solutions for problems that you face.

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