This is a story about a time when a weak employee produced outstanding work

Delegation in management. Performance Management

Delegation in management. Performance Management

Some of the best work I’ve ever seen came from an under-performing employee. This is the motivational story about employee engagement and what I learnt from it. At the end I tie it back to actions that you the manager can do to reduce your workload and get better performance from your staff.

Picture Lisa (not her real name):

A graduate with little work experience. Definitely Gen-Y, slightly hipsterish. Strong beliefs (aka stubborn). Tendency to bottle up feelings and not communicate. Moodiness quotient, high – definitely unhappy at work. Main responsibilities: Sales. Employee Performance level: low. Resulting in management attention applied to performance manage her. I’m sure you recognize some of these performance issues if you’ve had to deal with difficult people before.

The Company:

A small company going through a major restructuring with profitability, solvency and liquidity problems. Low employee productivity, low employee engagement and bad staff morale. The owner/ manager (let’s call her Jane) was working long hours and burnt out. There was a real question whether it was worth trying to save the company. So in other words, a real basket case. The low sales performance coming from Lisa was making things worse.

The Situation:

The show room needed a redesign to improve the customer journey and to save space. Jane is particular and a showroom redesign would take up a lot of time that she didn’t have. So somewhat apprehensively she delegated the task to Lisa.

The Result:

Productivity. Motivational stories. Employee engagement

Productivity. Motivational stories. Employee engagement

Lisa took to it like a duck to water. She found some free software on the internet, taught herself how to use the software. She took care and attention to make an accurate representation of the space and the custom shelving. Lisa took initiative to solve some tricky layout problems. Where Lisa was normally the sort of employee to leave as the clock struck five, now she was putting her own time into the project. Lisa ended up with three layout suggestions. Lisa presented these to us and she made informed recommendations. I can tell you that everyone was very impressed with the high quality work she had done. Lisa also came out of her shell and clearly was proud about what she had done, how she had done it and the recognition she got.

The Management learnings I took away from this are in two main areas:

1.     The role of delegation in management

2.     How to hire employees for performance 

1. The role of Delegation in Management:

The Delegation resulted in a better result in quicker time than if the manager had tried to do it herself. Not because Lisa is better or more skilled than Jane but because:



·      A task that was another thing on Jane’s to-do list was actually an exciting employee development opportunity for Lisa

·      Lisa had more time available to pay the care and attention needed to do a good job

·      Lisa was largely left alone to do the task as she thought fit although she did have a clear idea about what the objectives were. Job autonomy is proven to be a key driver of job satisfaction.

A lesson about managerial skills - sometimes less is more. A real key to the success of this delegation was choosing what to delegate. (To find out how to choose what to delegate, go here).

2. How to Hire employees for performance

A big reason why Lisa did a good job was because the task was more suited to her personality type and her skills. Studies show that people derive job satisfaction (and life happiness) when they do something that they are good at. As a frustrated manager it’s tempting to label Lisa as “an oxygen thief” – an unengaged employee, needing performance management, not taking ownership, lacking in initiative, not particularly skilled and not a productive employee. But it’s simple that Lisa was a mismatch for the sales role. For the showroom redesign we didn’t try to motivate Lisa with a bonus, she worked hard because of her own intrinsic motivators. (For a free resource to identify job competencies for job descriptions and interviewing click here)

Successful Delegation in Management

Often managers don’t delegate work tasks because they think their employees don’t know how to do something. They think that it is too hard to develop employee skills to make the delegation worthwhile. Managers think that they know best. Managers think that employees won’t pay care and attention. Managers complain about a lack of initiative and ownership. This is totally understandable because many managers have had bad experiences with delegation. But with the right management delegation skills these problems go away. 

Tip: Weekly one-on-one meetings with your staff are a good forum to delegate tasks to them. Get your free on-on-one form here to help you keep track of your delegations.

Managerial Skills and Leadership Skills

And the other lesson is the power of delegation to your own productivity. You can’t do it all yourself. It doesn’t matter how good your time management is. To be an effective manager you need to do management delegation and learn successful delegation. The other relevant manager skills are motivating staff and knowing how to hire employees that are right for the job.

My learning: Employees will take initiative, they will engage in problem solving and self development when they are sufficiently engaged and motivated to achieve the end objective. That's why I've made the program. It shows the everyday manager like you and me how to get better employee performance in just an hour a week, including proven techniques for employee selection, motivation and retention.

If we did all the things we are capable of doing we would literally astonish ourselves
— Thomas Edison


Sometimes that under-performing member of staff on your team actually isn’t a bad person despite how much they frustrate you. They are probably mismatched to the job or not sufficiently motivated for the job. People have skills and capabilities that would surprise you. When you motivate employees using their internal motivators they will solve their own problems and take initiative. This highlights the importance of hiring the right person for the job. Managers avoid making work delegation because of fear and past bad experiences. But knowing how to make a successful delegation is a key manager skill. The most effective way to increase your own productivity is to let go of work and motivate your employees. Delegating can be a good way to motivate and develop employees. This can be a win-win-win outcome for you, the employee and the company. What are your experiences of delegation - any big wins or horror stories?

The Management Sweetspot:

The management sweetspot is the zone where the interests of managers, employees and companies overlap. This creates value for all three. Read more about this here

Boss Camp

Boss Camp will show you how to improve employee performance in just an hour a week, by showing you what they never taught you in school. The program includes topics such as:

  • How to motivate employees,
  • What are bad employee motivators,
  • What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description,
  • How leaders get power.