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Be Aware of What Motivates People

After you delegate a task and when checking in with each other, do whatever you can to keep the other person motivated. After all, you're asking that person to consider the task important, handle it well, and finish on time.

Motivational psychologists suggest that the following elements account for differing levels of motivation:

  • Intrinsic pleasure of the task. People naturally want to do what's pleasurable. Unfortunately, you probably can't do much to make the job more pleasurable, but what you can do when delegating is acknowledge that the task is unpleasant.
  • Whether or not the person chose to do the task. When people feel coerced into performing a task, they generally put off doing it, and they usually don't do a very good job. As much as you can, try to involve the other person in making the decision that the task is necessary. At the very least, explain the reasoning behind your decision to ask this particular person to perform the work.
  • Difficulty of the task. People are most motivated by a task that is moderately difficult—it should be at least somewhat challenging, but not so difficult that delegate estimates a high probability of failure. If you have different people as potential delegates, select a person for whom the work is moderately difficult.
  • Your relationship with the delegate. People will do a good job for somebody they like and trust. Follow the instructions you learned in kindergarten—always try to be pleasant and trustworthy—and you will have no problem with this element.
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