Motivation and Delegation: Keys to Successful Management

If managers learn what motivates individuals on their teams and how to delegate work, they will be far ahead of their peers.

By Andrew Gager, contributing writer  

I recently facilitated a leadership and supervision training session. We had 13 people who are or soon will be promoted into supervision or management roles. 

Throughout the session, it became clear that motivation and delegation were by far the biggest hurdles facing these future leaders. They did not feel comfortable delegating work, especially when supervising former peers, and they did not know how to motivate their teams. 

First-hand experience 

I empathize with them because I was uneasy when I first became a supervisor. I was called into the office Friday afternoon, which is the worst time to call someone into the front office. On my way, all I thought about was, “What did I do to get reprimanded or fired?” 

In the meeting, they said nice things and that my performance was being rewarded by being promoted to department supervisor. On Friday afternoon, I was a co-worker. Starting the following Monday, I was to be the new supervisor of the department. 

I will admit, I was stoked. I started to think about the money I would be making. I was excited to tell my wife that we could now afford to upgrade from the store-brand macaroni and cheese to Kraft Cheese & Macaroni. 

Apparently, while I was awash in my euphoric state, I missed what my boss then said: “By the way, you need to let Joe go next week.” 

I knew Joe, and one thing I definitely knew was that Joe did not do any work. He punched in and disappeared until it was time to punch out. I was never trained in how to terminate anyone, and now I had to terminate a person twice my size with a temper. 

As I look back on this experience, I wish I had received formal training on how to be a good supervisor or manager. I was horrible at delegating and certainly did not know how to motivate my team. I learned early in my career to do whatever my boss told me to do, no questions asked. Was I motivated? Probably not. I just needed a paycheck. How times have changed. 

If maintenance and engineering managers can learn what motivates individuals on their teams and how to delegate work, they will be far ahead of their peers. 

Motivation matters  

Motivation occurs at the personal level, not at the group level. What motivates one person does not necessarily motivate another. 

According to research and papers on leadership, the top motivators for employees are trust, feelings of contribution and empathy. Money is not a motivator. It is a stimulator.  

Look at it this way: If I give a worker a raise today, what will that person be looking for in three-six months from now? In the short-term, performance improves, but motivating a worker to do the right thing is a continuous process. 

I believe trust is the best motivator. If I trust my boss to have my back, I’ll be more inclined to support him or her. If I do not trust my boss, then it is difficult to go above and beyond the minimal effort. 

Feelings of contribution are important and can be linked to delegation. If my boss believes in my abilities and trusts me with delegating work and I accomplish it, I tend to have a sense of contributing to the team or department. It is my reward to myself for a job well done. If my boss makes a point to recognize the effort, all the better. 

Empathy is another motivator that is underappreciated. We all have bad days personally and professionally. If my boss recognizes that I am having a particularly bad time and can express concern, I will feel more comfortable and less stressed. 

Another motivation strategy for supervisors and managers is to adjust the approach. Effective supervisors and managers realize that the hopes and ambitions of their team members differ. They learn about their employees at a personal level and adapt motivational strategies to each of those team members. 

Managers weighing strategies and tactics to motivate team members need to consider the way types of work or assignments can address individual motivators: 

  • Achievement. Workers motivated by achievement are driven to personally accomplish significant goals. These workers push themselves to accomplish challenging goals and seek visible results. 
  • Balance. These people strive for a balance of personal and professional activities. They like flexible hours and working remotely and dislike overtime. 
  • Autonomy. These workers are driven to perform independently and are creative. They enjoy developing new ideas. 
  • Power. These workers are driven to seek recognition, prestige, authority and control. They like to be acknowledged publicly and tangibly for a job well done. 
  • Security. These workers are motivated by security and stability. They do not like change, are motivated to keep a regular income and do not make waves. 
  • Relationship. These workers are focused on building relationships and making others happy. They do not like discontent and prefer to foster harmony in the department. 

Knowing what motivates individual team members and how to apply the most effective influencing applications can elevate the team to perform and achieve the organizations’ objectives and goals beyond expectations. 

Delegation strategies 

It is easy for managers to delegate too much work to experienced workers and not enough work to those who require more assistance. To balance workloads effectively and efficiently, managers should consider the following suggestions: 

Choose the appropriate person. Consider the individual. Does he or she have a high level of interest or passion for the work? Does the person need to further develop their skills? Does he or she have the time? 

Delegate to someone who can work independently. This tactic is especially true when addressing the autonomy motive and for high-profile or complex assignments. Perhaps assign the task to someone you can provide support to. 

Consider motivation and experience. A less-experienced person who is excited about the assignment might be more motivated to do a higher-quality job compared to a more experienced team member. 

Avoid overworking individuals with a successful track record. Managers should not miss an opportunity to develop the skills of others. If time and resources permit, managers should pair the more experienced worker with the lesser skilled worker. 

Review performances. The goal is to ensure the completeness, effectiveness and efficiency of the delegated work. 

The most important element of delegating is communicating to convey clear expectations for the assignment. Assign one responsible person, and describe the deadline, deliverables and success criteria. Then have the person repeat the assignment description to verify their understanding. Do not forget to follow up. 

Motivation and delegation are powerful tools that managers need to master. Managers should take inventory of team members, identify factors that motivate them as individuals, and do not hesitate to assign work to improve time-management skills. 

Do not be like me when I became a supervisor by thinking I alone could do the best job and rule by, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Become a master motivator. 

Andrew Gager — agager@amgintlco.com — is CEO of AMG International Consulting. He is a professional consultant and facilitator with more than 20 years of partnering with organizations in achieving strategic objectives and goals.

Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »

  posted on 8/15/2022   Article Use Policy

Related Topics: