A supervisor’s level of involvement in an employee’s task is dependent on two things: 1) How important the task is, and 2) How experienced the employee is in performing that particular task. Those two considerations are represented on the graph below, which is a modification of the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model.
The left scale of the graph represents the level of importance of the task. At the bottom of the graph are tasks that are not important. Near the top of the graph, the tasks are very important. Important tasks are high-visibility tasks with major consequences if not done successfully. The scale along the bottom of the graph shows how experienced the employee is at the specific task you are delegating. If the person has no experience, he or she would fall on the left side of the graph. If the employee has done the task successfully before, he or she would fall on the right side of the graph.
The terms in the middle of the graph are the same ones that are used in the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model. Each category represents a different amount of instruction and monitoring of employees.
It is appropriate to coach when the task is not important and the employee doesn’t have experience performing the task. Coaching includes giving a clear and detailed description of the expected outcome. However, we want to give employees some room to try and figure out the details on their own. If they make a mistake, it’s not a big deal because the task isn’t crucial. In coaching, we are creating a learning experience. We will tell them what success looks like and then check in with them periodically to make sure that they have the resources they need and that everything is going okay.
If we move up the page along the Importance of the Task scale but stay to the left on the graph, we’re still talking about employees who are not very experienced. However, they are working on something that’s really important with high visibility. In that situation, we want to direct. We are going to tell them exactly what to do, and then we are going to keep very close tabs on their actions. We would probably establish timelines and benchmarks and ensure that those requirements are met because we want to make sure that they succeed and the organization benefits.
Experienced employees will fall on the right side of the graph. If the task is not very important, we are going to delegate. We know that they can handle whatever task this is. Ultimately, a great supervisor’s goal is to have minimal involvement in the accomplishment of tasks. We want to tell them what success looks like and have them let us know when they are done. Of course, it’s difficult to attain that standard all the time because we get new employees, new tasks, and other changes.
Even experienced, trustworthy employees need support on important tasks. We have a lot of confidence in them, but because the task is important and may be highly visible, we want to make sure that we’re checking in with them to ensure everything is going well. We will provide a timeline for complex tasks and ask for updates. We aren’t directly in the nuts-and-bolts of the task, but we are keeping track of how it’s going.
In summary, our level of involvement with employees doing tasks is dependent on the person’s experience and the importance of the task. As supervisors, we aren’t going to maintain one level of involvement across the board all the time. We are going to gauge the level of involvement that we need based on the specific circumstances.
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