Once you learn how to delegate, you should be able to relax a little, right? But then—out of the blue—one of your employees rushes into your office to let you know that after multiple meetings and phone calls, a client escalation has gotten so out of hand that the customer is leaving your company to find a new vendor. And you knew nothing about it.
As a manager, you’re supposed to empower your team to make decisions and complete tasks without constantly looking over their shoulders to micromanage them. But at the same time, you’re also held accountable for your employees’ work—so you need to have a clear idea of the progress that’s been made and any issues that come up along the way.
So how do you keep an eye on your employees’ day-to-day tasks, without being overbearing? Try these three tips.
1. Set Expectations Ahead of Time
Part of the fear of delegating is that your employees are going to encounter major, management-level challenges and try to tackle them alone—instead of involving you. While it’s important that they’re able to make decisions on their own, you need to be aware of what’s going on so you can step in if needed. So, that starts with figuring out exactly what’s vital for you to know, then setting proper expectations about what your employees should be communicating to you, and when.
For example, if you have an employee working with a large client, you probably don’t need a transcript of every phone call between your staffer and the customer. But, you may need to know about any changes to the client’s budget so you can report that information upward. So, let your employee know that when a financial issue arises, you need to know about it.
Or, the line may be a little less black-and-white—maybe you need to be informed at any sign of a client escalation, since you know that this particular customer has threatened to start looking for a different vendor before.
No matter what’s on your need-to-know list, it’s important that you clearly outline this to your employees before they start on their delegated tasks. This way, they’ll feel trusted to handle decisions and issues on their own—but know exactly when they need to bring you into the picture.
2. Ask for Proactive Updates
When you want to know what’s going on, you ask questions. But when it becomes a habit (i.e., you stop by an employee’s desk several times a day to ask, “How did that conference call go?” “What did the client say when you talked about pricing?” or “What did your email say?”), you can do more harm than good—especially when it comes to employee morale.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should stop asking for updates—but it can be more effective to ask for them ahead of time.
So, maybe you ask for a weekly email from each employee, summarizing the progress they’ve made and any issues they’re facing. Make sure it’s not something that’s going to be a burden (e.g., ask for five short bullet points per update, not paragraphs of elaboration) and that they know exactly what kind of information you’re looking for (there’s a big difference between “I met with the client to discuss the pricing changes in his contract” and “worked on the contract”).
When your employees know exactly what information you want to know—and how you want them to get it to you—you won’t have to worry about finagling information out of them through constant questions. Instead, they’ll deliver it right to your inbox.
3. Create a Collaborative Culture
Team meetings don’t have a great reputation. When you combine a monotone speaker, an agenda of repetitive reminders (which were already distributed via email last week), and a PowerPoint full of ClipArt, you certainly don’t have the recipe for a successful team meeting.
But, when run the right way, weekly meetings can be your “in” to your employees’ progress. Instead of running through your agenda and ending with a quick “Any questions?” try leading with an invitation for your employees to share what’s going on with their current projects or clients. (It may sound a little cheesy, but I like to start my team meetings by going around the table, asking each person to share both an accomplishment and a challenge from the past week.)
When given the chance, your employees will be excited to share their successes in front of their peers (which, as a bonus, can boost their confidence). And at the same time, it can also serve as a great way for them to collaborate. When one team member shares a challenge he or she is facing, the rest of the team is usually eager to give advice or jump in with their experience.
Listening to this back-and-forth will give you invaluable insight into what’s happening on your team—both accomplishments and challenges. With that knowledge, you’ll be prepared when an issue escalates or you need to step in and assist—instead of getting caught off guard.
Stay in the Know
Staying in the middle ground between delegation and micromanagement can be tough. You certainly have the right to know what’s going on with your team—but asking constant questions isn’t always the most effective way of doing that. When you’re able to trust your employees to let you in on the important issues, you can rest easy, knowing that your team is on track for success.
This guest post was written by Avery Augestine of The Daily Muse. The Daily Muse is the daily publication of The Muse, your ultimate career destination that offers exciting job opportunities, expert advice, and a peek behind the scenes into fantastic companies and career paths. Learn more, contact us, and find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.