Delivering The Task - "Deskside Manner" Counts
by Daniel S. Houck

Sssshh. Work happening here.

The secret building with the long secret hallway to the ultra secret room, and there it sat. The secret case with the secret recording containing the top-secret instructions. This is the part where the Mission Impossible music plays in the background and you have 5 seconds to comprehend your assignment before the tape recorder self-destructs.

Delivering a task, though not generally as painful as delivering bad news, can, and should be conveyed with tact and finesse. Is this necessary always? Not unless you want to have things accomplished to the very best of someone's ability it isn't. Orders or requests. Involvement or disconnect. Actions or misgivings. Guidance or ambiguity. The way the message is delivered is as important as the message itself sometimes, perhaps even more so.

Are you a manager?
If so, consider your Deskside Manner

  1. "I'm afraid Wickermeyer that you are being placed on the Penske Project and boy is it a doozy. No one has ever been able to accomplish getting this thing off the ground. You'll probably die in the ensuing stockholder backlash, but not before the painful looks and stares pierce your heart, but hey, that's what we pay you for right?"
  2. EMAIL
    To: Tim Wickermeyer
    Subject: Penske Project
    "You will be handling the Penske Project effective today. Make it happen or else. We know where your kids go to school."
  3. "Tim, you're doing great things around here. People have noticed. People are talking. The right people. I've noticed. Well hell, I'm talking about you. And that's why I asked you in today. I have a challenging project for you, the Penske Project. It's going to be tough, but you my friend might just be the one to make it happen. I have confidence in you and your abilities. Let me get you filled in on the project's history so you won't step on any of the previous landmines. The more information you have the better opportunity you have to accomplish this thing."

The Difference

There is a huge difference between telling someone what to do and getting them actively engaged in working on something willingly. Having employees work FOR you is not the same as having them work WITH you. Your goal is to transform the former into the latter. It is your job to create an effective Deskside Manner. Like the doctor not considering the entire patient but only dealing with the ailment, you miss an opportunity to treat the person if you kick out job activities like blasts from a "to-do" shotgun. Firing off tasks and responsibilities in this way does little to make them, the tasks or the people, seemingly a part of the overall goal of building and running a successful project or business.

In life there are always things we do not want to do. I do not want to do laundry, and yet it keeps coming back. I do not want to clean out the rain gutters of leaves and yet it must be done. I do not want to pay for dry cleaning or iron my clothes and yet I do like looking good. None of this is neither here nor there however. We do these things because they are part of the larger picture, of our lives, and of our workplace lives. Not all tasks are pleasant but all should have a means to an end.

Right Framing

Oftentimes, mundane or downright unpleasant tasks can be made that much better by being framed correctly. Often this "right framing" is little more than candid reason for doing something that needs be done. Does this mean we have to get "all holistic" with each and every employee and explain to the infinitesimally smallest iota how he or she is to do his or her job? No, that would be micromanagement and that disease is a manager killer to be discussed on another day. Does it mean we have to provide more information that we have time to or really want to divulge, because we're not babysitting over here? Nope. Doesn't mean that either.

Delivering tasks to people effectively means doing a few things right:

  • Treating them like people and this usually means speaking to them like humans you hired and want working on your team for the long haul.
  • Understanding that they may not understand immediately your line of thinking and you may need to explain it in a different way if you want it done right. Raising your voice or speaking in a sharp tone doesn't help people understand things any better.
  • Realizing that you are viewed by what and how you say things, and that manners do not dissipate like morning dew upon entering the office limits.
  • Offering praise and encouragement if you believe in employees helps them to believe in themselves and furthers their power to achieve.

Synonyms for tasks in my thesaurus come up as errands, farm duties, and everyday jobs. Obviously these are to be considered menial in nature, and yet the tasks you ask employees to do are not always thus. Balancing the budget, marketing a new product to a unique demographic, researching a new technology infrastructure patent, or allocating resources for a multimillion-dollar initiative are all tasks, depending on how you look at it.

Getting your people to perform is as easy as giving orders too, I guess, depending on how you look at it. Buy in, enthusiasm, encouragement, shared information, teamwork. Just vocabulary words perhaps, depending on how you look at it.

Look sharp!

People Notion,, (888) 799-4369
People Performance Leadership Development Marketing Direction

Daniel Houck is co-founder of People Notion, Company Culture Architects! a performance management training firm that works with some of the best companies in the world, and with those aspiring to be. People Notion specializes in helping people and companies determine their highest expectations and then surpass them.

As a motivational speaker, consultant and writer he moves senior executives and their staffs to shatter the illusion that success, measured by joining people with ROI is not possible. Contact him directly at

Subscribe FREE to People Notion's online newsletter: InSiDe OuT. Each week you'll find clear, concise and upbeat articles on important workplace issues including morale, retention, executive leadership, managing the mutigenerational workforce and much more. Keep your company alive, sharp, and charged up!! .

Also by Daniel Houck: Marketing Right: Gen Y Wants You! and Communication Habit Traps | Many more articles on Communications, Sales & Marketing and Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2002 by Daniel Houck. All rights reserved.

Current Issue - Archives - CEO Links - News - Conferences - Recommended Reading