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Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.
– John C. Maxwell
Organizing the work of others is one of the essential managerial duties that leaders engage in. The number of people who report to each leader can vary widely, but leaders need to be effective at delegating, managing, and evaluating the work of their employees. Research shows that clarity in roles and responsibilities relates to employee job satisfaction, commitment, performance, and intentions to remain within the organization.1 Role clarity can also buffer employees from the negative effects of emotional exhaustion2 and psychological strain.3
To effectively organize the work of others, a leader needs to clearly define the roles and responsibilities for their direct reports. Leaders also need to make employees aware of what tasks should be done, and how these tasks are to be carried out. Individuals should be familiar with the expectations around their work, including what their final outputs should look like. Essentially, leaders must be upfront and honest about what is needed and desired from each employee. This gives employees confidence in their understanding of the work they are to perform.
In assessing your ability to organize the work of others, ask yourself the following questions:
Develop a shared understanding between employees: When individuals work together, whether in a team or simply within a department, it is often helpful to know what kinds of skills or experience is present, and where someone could turn for help on their tasks. Groups with a shared understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, and preferences of other group members often find it easier to understand the roles and responsibilities of everyone in the department, including themselves. For leaders, it becomes less challenging to organize the work of multiple employees if everyone understands exactly where they fit in and what content their role covers.
Provide a supportive relationship: An important element of organizing the work of employees involves a leader’s relationship with these employees. Individuals who feel comfortable and trusting of their leader are the ones asking questions about their work and gaining greater understanding of their role. Research has supported this notion, showing that direct reports who have a good relationship with their leader are more likely to seek feedback and clarity on their leader’s expectations and their current performance.4 In addition to the trust, positive affect, and mutual liking that comes from positive working relationships, leaders who are on good terms with their followers have an easier time communicating what they need done, feeling confident that employees are listening. Seeing expected results come from these conversations.
Use your other leadership skills: Many of the other skills a leader needs to be successful can come in handy when trying to improve your ability to organize your employees. In this case, the most transferable skill is communication. To ensure you have reached a shared understanding with employees about their roles, you need to communicate calmly and clearly; you need to accurately convey the information; and you need to be prepared to listen to your employee. In addition, your skills in motivating employees could be of assistance in framing the tasks and responsibilities of an employee in a way that speaks to their interests and aspirations. For employees taking on burdensome or unpleasant tasks, your persuasiveness could be vital. See some of the other guides in this leadership series for more information on improving these skills, which will aid you in improving your ability to organize others.
The following steps can help you become better at organizing others’ work:
DEVELOP: Develop your ability to organize the work of others by taking advantage of SIGMA’s coaching services.
Interested in a hard copy of this handout? Download your PDF copy of our Leadership Series Handout: Organizing the Work of Others.
1Bauer, T. N., Bodner, T., Erdogan, B., Truxillo, D. M., & Tucker, J. S. (2007). Newcomer adjustment during organizational socialization: A meta-analytic review of antecedent, outcomes, and methods. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(3), 707-721.
2Gregersen, S., Vincent-Höper, S., & Nienhaus, A. (2016). Job-related resources, leader-member exchange and well-being – a longitudinal study. Work & Stress, 30(4), 356-373.
3Bliese, P. D., Castro, C. A. (2000). Role clarity, work overload and organizational support: multilevel evidence of the importance of support. Work & Stress, 14(1), 65-73.
4Whitaker, B. G., Dahling, J. J., & Levy, P. (2007). The development of a feedback environment and role clarity model of job performance. Journal of Management, 33(4), 570-591.
5Hinkin, T. R. & Schriesheim, C. A. (2008). An examination of “nonleadership”: From laissez-faire to leader reward omission and punishment omission. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(6), 1234-1248.