Delegating is the idea of I’m going to ask someone to do an activity or a task I’m currently doing. I’m going to explain the outcomes that I’m looking for and then I’m going to provide the right level of training and support to give them what they need in order to get to an outcome.
But it can be confusing. There are shades of grey when it comes to how much authority you give someone in a particular area or job.
I find it helpful to use a grade scale of 1 -10 to create clarity about how much authority you are giving someone in a job.
On level 1, the conversation is like “Wait to be told, do exactly what I say.” Or “Follow these instructions precisely.” These are examples of instructions with no delegated freedom at all.
Halfway up the scale at level 5, it’s “Give me your analysis of the situation (reasons, options, pros and cons, etc. I’ll let you know whether you can go ahead.”
This asks for analysis and recommendation, but you will check the thinking before deciding. Compared to the previous examples the person doing the task is granted significantly more freedom.
At the top end, level 10 it’s “Decide where action needs to be taken and manage the situation accordingly. It’s your area of responsibility.”
The most freedom that you can give to the other person. Oftentimes this shift to a strategic responsibility occurs with a formal change of a person’s job role. This gives the other person the responsibility for defining projects, tasks, analysis and decisions that are necessary for the management of a particular area of responsibility.
This level of delegation would most frequently be used when developing a successor, or as part of an intentional and agreed plan to devolve some of the job accountability in a formal sense.
So, our goal as leaders is to get someone from the early stages, level one or two, through to a place where they’ve effectively taken full responsibility for a particular area, and they can do it at the level that you’re entirely satisfied each time.
Here’s the other thing that sometimes gets confusing.
You may have someone working with you who’s at a level 9 or 10 in three dimensions of their job. And now you give them a fourth one. And the mistake that often gets made is that we assume they’re going to immediately be operating at level 9.
Well, how could that be? They haven’t had yet the experience or the training, or you haven’t coached them, and you haven’t given them the support. And then it causes confusion because, “Hey, in this area, you’re treating me like a 10 and in this area, you’re treating me like a baby or micro-managing, I don’t get it.”
So, part of the skill of learning to delegate is that we communicate expectations clearly, both in the things that this person does extremely well and in the things that this person is now levelling up to get to a place where they’re an 8, 9 or 10.
And my suggestion to you is that you take this grading scale and actually share it with your team. “Hey, I see you as an 8 on this thing. What do you think? I’m a 5.” “Oh, well, let’s talk about that. Let’s get that sorted out
Or more regularly what will happen is “Hey, I see you as a 5”, you know, the micromanager, and the other person is going to be saying “I’m a 10”. Well, of course, that’s there’s going to be conflict and tension because the expectations are not universally understood.