5 levels of delegation techniques to be an effective leader

5 levels of delegation techniques to be an effective leader
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

In a recent conversation, I got into a bit of discussion. Someone told me that they were told to do a better job of delegation without being able to clearly articulate what it means. Almost all of us at some point in our career have received feedback on delegation and neither the person giving it nor the person receiving it know what it means and it usually translates into you do less work and give your team more work!

After a bit of pause, I responded with the following framework that has served me well. At different points of your career, you have to demonstrate different traits.

  1. Lead yourself: The foundation of a lot of it is to lead yourself. It comes down to simple things - like completing the tasks assigned to you on time and with diligence, demonstrating emotional intelligence in conversations, knowing your stuff, your colleagues trusting your work and liking to work with you.
  2. Delegating tasks: This is typically the next level. When you first get your team of say 4 people. Are you able to take your project/work and break it down into parts, setup the right tools/templates, ask everyone to complete their portion and you can put it together. It is almost like putting together a puzzle. Things you need to be good at - project management. As you do this keep people motivated, respect them, and work with them to get it done.
  3. Delegating outcomes: This is typically the next level. As you have say a team of 8 with two managers, you cannot help with managing the tasks of all the people. This is what is called Micro-management. You need to learn to clearly define the outcomes like "Achieve $500K in savings in the upcoming 5 contract negotiations". The manager then takes it and makes the puzzle pieces with his/her team. You need to then coach them on best ways to get to the outcome. The tasks are left to the team but you need to be able to define the signals that tell you when something is off track.
  4. Delegating strategy: Think about this phase as a puzzle of outcomes your team puts together for you. This is when you are leading a department with multiple facets. For example, if you need to achieve $1MM in savings in procurement, your departments need to be able to define how to get there! If you are telling them then either you are micro-managing, or not giving your teams the ability to learn and grow, or there is a genuine problem all of which are not going to let you get to the desired end-state. People start calling the leaders who are at this phase without realizing what it takes to course-correct a "train-wreck".
  5. Delegating org: Think about this phase as a giant puzzle of strategic outcomes. This is when you are leading a org with with multiple departments. You need to be able to define the higher purpose and metrics and then request every leader to pull together the strategic outcomes. We will achieve a growth rate of 5% with a 20% margin. All the teams then need to pull their portions of the strategic to get to the desired org outcome.

One of the most under-rated but important trait is learning the ability to stretch across these 5 levels depending on a given situation.

Next is the ability to inspiring and empowering your people to own their portions of the puzzle, being able to define the signals that tell you when something is off track and when something is off track coaching them to course-correct it!

Last but not the least, there are several non-negotiable traits like empathy and respect for people, genuinely taking interest in other people, and creating a safe-place for team to do the right thing as well as demonstrate their point of view.

If your team is shivering to present to you or thinking several times to choose the words they have to say, you've done a shitty job of creating that environment.

Hope you find this helpful!

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