Keeping a Direct Report Focused
You are head of the marketing department for your tech company. As part of your effort to roll out a new product, the company is participating in a big outdoor Tech-Expo event held annually at a local park.
Each participating company is responsible for providing its own tent and exhibit fixtures. You ask Kevin, a member of your team, to contact tent providers from a list of suppliers and rent what is needed.
Assigning a Task
Kevin is an amiable employee who gets along with everyone. When you decided he would be right for this part of the project, you went over the list with him and encouraged him to get on it. A week later, when you asked Kevin for a progress report, he admitted that he hasn’t done it yet.
Yes, he talked to the event people and got the list of suppliers. No, he hasn’t contacted any of them yet. Kevin tells you that Camila, another employee in your department, asked him for help on another part of the project. He remarks that the deadline is still a month away.
You say that you wanted to plug his figures into your costs to see how the budget is affected. And what if the tents are all taken? You want this nailed down.
When you considered Kevin, you didn’t allow for his Q3 gregarious and meandering behavior to slow down the process. If you could start over with Kevin, what would be the most effective Q4 collaborative skills to use?
From a resource standpoint, this is not a two-person task. Moreover, Kevin’s overly sociable tendencies are apt to work against this solution. Look how he took his eyes off the goal to help Camila. Working with other people can be a positive motivator for Q3 behavior, but in this case, pairing two work friends is asking for trouble. Answer C is a better remedy.
You may think it is better to keep Kevin away from dealing with vendors. He might get bogged down in socializing. However, if a tight action plan is generated, it can keep Kevin on task.
In general, it’s good motivation to play to the needs of Q3 sociability. Employees who enjoy people are usually good representatives of the company. Assignments that include dealing with people as part of completing the task are win-win. But won’t Kevin spend an inordinate amount of time with the vendors? If you have employees similar to Kevin, the key is to generate a detailed plan with frequent check-backs to help them maintain focus. See Answer C.
Every employee should be viewed as unique. Someone with Q1 independent or Q2 avoidance tendencies might resent your close attention to the specifics of carrying out this fairly simple assignment. However, employees with Q3 overly sociable behavior can be easily distracted from achieving a goal. In this case, Kevin didn’t want to disappoint Camila by turning down her request for assistance. Developing a detailed action plan with a timeline will remind him of his responsibility to the task. In fact, Q3 often appreciates that reminder.
Meanwhile, it’s important that you not simply dictate an action plan (unless it’s a crisis situation). Direct reports will be much more invested in an assignment if they are central in planning the steps to completion. Get their buy-in by asking them how they will proceed. Then, when you both agree on the plan, hold them to it.