Many newer managers face a learning curve regarding delegation because for a long time, they have probably been the recipients, not the initiators, of delegated tasks; delegation is a learned talent, not typically an inherent one, and as you become more experienced you do inherently realize there are different types of delegation. Depending on your choices, some work better for you than others.
Yet, there are few educational resources focused on delegation, its levels and how to use them effectively. Why not consider this "Delegation 101"? First, understand why the seemingly simple act of delegation often poses a challenge to you.
As you're faced with the ability – and responsibility – to delegate tasks to others, you sometimes develop a natural reluctance for at least two reasons:
1. Your performance and career will now be judged, not only on your individual performance, but the success of the team you manage.
2. You may have understandable feelings that no one does it (whatever "it" is) as well as you do. That's why you earned the promotion in the first place!
Many people lack confidence that they can translate their approach and achievement to others, who may or may not have the same level of motivation or dedication that helped them achieve. Obviously, you must overcome this barrier to succeed as a manager. But, understand that these feelings are natural and can be overcome with practice.
You should also realize that not all delegation is equal. For example, delegating a team member to deliver the day's mail to you is quite different than delegating a major component of an important project to another member of your team. These are obviously far different levels of delegation that carry a wide variety of rewards, risks and consequences. Understanding the different levels of delegation should help you perform better as a manager.
Level 1 – Please Do What I Ask
Much like sticking your toes in the water before diving into the ocean, this first level, which is the simplest, can be the most difficult. This simple act of "letting go" can be the most challenging psychologically. Yet, it's primarily without risk to your standards or preferences.
Level 2 – Research It and Then I'll Decide
This step is the first real expression of a level of trust in your team members. Allowing them to compile the data necessary to make a decision is your first true "letting go" action. Allowing your team members to prepare the data upon which you'll make a final decision indicates your trust in staff and a willingness to depend on others to collect the information you need.
Level 3 – Research It, We'll Discuss It and Then I'll Decide
Permitting your employees to investigate and then support their conclusions is a good way to delegate successfully. You are now acting more like a judge in court rather than a dictator in a small country. Allowing your staff to research and collect data and then orally discuss their conclusions, you may be starting to develop future superstars for your company.
Level 4 – Research It, Evaluate It, Suggest Action and Then I'll Decide
You've now reached an upper level of trust and delegation. You've given your staff the authority to not only discuss their research, but also suggest a course of action as a result of that investigation. You have now become more than a rookie judge, but ascended to Supreme Court Justice. You still make the final decision, but your choice will be almost totally based on the "arguments" put forth by your trusted employees.
Level 5 – Research It, Evaluate It, Suggest Action, Then You Decide (Be Sure to Tell Me First)
Now you've done it. You've reached the level of delegation expert. You have the confidence in your team – and yourself – to delegate important tasks to others, permit not only investigation and evaluation, but also action suggestion and permission to make decisions without your intervention. Sure, you still want to be informed before the action is taken, but now it's more communication than control.
Obviously you need competent and trustworthy team members to allow you to become a delegation expert, but understanding these levels of delegation will help you improve your management performance.
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