Leadership

7 levels of delegation


Are you a micromanager?  Or maybe one of those generalists who's so vague giving direction that your staff never knows exactly what to do? 

Clients frequently ask if delegation is a style thing that can be learned.  Or is it an art thing which is more intuitive; inherent to a manager's overall approach? 

Delegation isn't just a simple matter of telling someone else what to do; and there's a lot of conflicting advice floating around about how to gauge the right approach for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. A few years back I came across a great outline by an English educator named Alan Chapman on his website. I think it's a solid summary you can use to determine how much autonomy you want to give your team members. 

And (of course) any good manager knows that just because something's appropriate for one member of your team doesn't mean it will work for another.  So consider each of your players individually.  Noodle on these seven levels.  And use each where appropriate to boost your effectiveness with your team members:

1. "Wait and be told, or do exactly what I say" - this is the no-delegation-at-all approach.

2. "Look into this and tell me what you come up with" - this is asking for investigation and analysis but no recommendation

3. "Give me your recommendation, and other options with the pro's and con's of each. I'll let you know if you can go ahead." - Asks for analysis and recommendation, but you're going to check the thinking before deciding.

4. "Decide and let me know your decision. But wait for my go ahead." - you are signaling that your subordinate is trusted to judge the various options, but (s)he needs approval before taking action.

5. "Decide and let me know your decision.  Go ahead unless I say stop." - At this level the other person is starting to control the action.  This is a good timesaving increase in autonomy.

6. "Decide and take action, but let me know what you did." - Here we are saving more time.  This approach allows for a quick reaction on your part if the decision made was a bad one.

7. "Decide and take action. You don't need to check with me." - At this level you are giving your subordinate the most freedom possible.  It demonstrates a high level of confidence in them.  Ensure you have good controls in place to flag any mistakes before they can become a major hassle.

                                                                      - till next time

                                                                          john

                                                                        Career Coach

 

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

11 comments
mikeramm
mikeramm

I have thought about the levels of delegation but I've come to four. This categorization is deeper and I think it would be very helpful. One should always ask his/herself what level of freedom he or she wants to have as it is related to the responsibility. Also as a manager, to what extent would you delegate freedom to your subordinates to make decisions. Very good article! Thank you!

sjohnson175
sjohnson175

Not only am I stuck at level one but she tells me a coding enhancement will take X hours (without my input mind you). If I can't fit the coding into her schedule it's a crapshoot as to if I'll get spoken to like a child, blown up at or help at a professional level. It's not like I'm some junior coder either. I've been slinging code since 1996 and her estimates are often WAYYY off. If she's such a superwoman she needs to be doing these enhancements herself.

wrlang
wrlang

Over simplified These 7 levels are over simplified and are geared towards people who don?t need to go to the finance person for money. I do all the research and prepare all the documents and do the presentations, but I have no signing authority for the money needed. Since almost everything I do requires some kind of expenditure, I can rarely get to level 7. But I don?t view that as a micro management issue. I have expensed things that should have rightfully been invoiced to the company to get them rolling, but that is for very small amounts. Once or twice a year I get a level one where I need to work very closely with all the players and they agree on what to do while I prepare the documents. While that is a micro management issue, there are times when it is very acceptable to work this way on sensitive issues. Most of the last 30 years I?ve been at levels 4-6. These levels are very dependent on the type of work being done.

stan
stan

Back when I worked for other people, I was hired because of my ability and knowledge. I expected that the people who hired me would trust my judgement. If they wanted to manage every little thing, they could do the job themselves. Now I would only hire people that I thought could function at level 7. I don't have time to tell them every little thing, and I'm not interested in micro managing anything. level 1. It would be easier and faster to do it myself. level 2. I probably already know more than the level 2 employee. I could save time and just tell him/her. level 3 and 4. I trust people I hire to make good decisions. I don't have to review it. level 5, 6 and 7. I expect my people to come to me if they have a problem or need something they don't have. Any decent manager should know whats going on and shouldn't need formal reports.

brian.fischer
brian.fischer

This originally came from a management "practicist" named Bill Oncken, who was a great consultant on how to manage and wrote "Who's Got the Monkey?". His writings and teachings were full of practical examples and a lot of wit and wisdom

Warrior_King
Warrior_King

There is a find line between total delegation with freedom and just being lazy. If using the seventh approach it is required to check in, check up and ensure satisfaction. It might not be the right thing to do depending on the employee.

nsobrio
nsobrio

Her attitude is at Level one, but so may be her experience as a manager. Two series that helped me follow and lead were: the book How to Supervise People ISBN1-55852-184-4 and another CD series called "Dealing with Difficult People" Both talk about respecting each the styles of people around us, letting people's stuff stay their stuff, and giving up power to gain power. Most seasoned managers have agreed with me when I say, "With a track record of high turnover under a boss' dictatorship, often comes the train of Karma to run right over them." A healthy organization won't let a manager like that stay in RULE for too long. If they do, for your own health and sanity, find a place and a boss that appreciates your talent. I learned that lesson the hard way too many times. It is pretty easy after a while to let the hard jobs go when you realize it is crazy to stand in an freezer if what you want is warmth. Don't be afraid to manage up by going around her to her boss with facts about time estimates an unrealistic working conditions. Facts remove the vendeta. If her manager is a good one, they will instruct her to get your input on time estimates. All the best!

aaroeye
aaroeye

Delegation is also a function of subordinates' competence. Unfortunately the boss does not always get to pick all the subordinates -- some are inherited.

MavMin2
MavMin2

There are very few times when I need a Manager/Supervisor. In fact, I am not sure if they even know all that I do on any given day only what I provide in my monthly report. My goal is to be nearly invisible but darn near indispensible but that doesn't mean I hoard information or act like the stereotypical guru. I teach nearly every day. I have pretty much achieved that goal. Many people in the organization miss me when I am on vacation or out sick but my Bosses seldom see me unless we meet at the coffee pot. Only when I need the name of a big gun to accomplish something do I go to my Supervisor. To me, that is the sign of a good employee and the kind I wanted working for me when I was in management positions. Unfortunately, good help is hard to find nowadays and I wouldn't take another management position if they offered me 7 figures. Many micromanagers I know have to be because they can't find employees they can trust or who can see past their nose. They want big bucks, easy work and no real responsibility. They bounce from job to job like a moose in rutting season. They want titles, a corner office and a Mercedes but don't want to work for it. Many have wonderful certifications but they can't perform. All head knowledge and no common sense. It is no wonder we outsource. The English may be poor but the work ethic is much better and when you are looking at the botom line that is what is most important. The number 7 approach is the best if you can find the type of employees that will let you exercise it.

sjohnson175
sjohnson175

Managing up is out of the question for her boss who is also her dad happens to be equally dysfunctional. About half the employees are either blood or marital relations. I fortunately am not. I'm beating the bushes hard for an escape.

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