Delegate Successfully - The Four Level Rule

Martin Haworth
 


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Delegation is a subtle, yet vital art in business. It can work very effectively for you - but only if you use it well. And use it for the benefit of all involved. There is a vital ‘ground rule’ that you must accommodate. And that's around a clear ‘level of authority’ to act. . .

Most business owners, managers and executives who are successful have a clear strategy for making the most of their own skills. To quote Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyJet, the originator of no-frills short-haul airlines in Europe, in their latest in-flight magazine:-

"They find out what they're good at and delegate the rest. "

Nothing too amazing there then. Yet so many bosses fail to do this. They sit on stuff they aren't good at for all sorts of reasons, and key actions are performed late, or badly, or worst of all, never get done at all.

Delegation through your people effectively resolves this. Yet you need to ensure that they have the skills that you haven't (which means that you creatively recruit people who can).

These people are capable of learning the stuff you want to delegate and even improve it, with their own particular capabilities, to deliver it better than you could yourself.

But they need help in getting this right. Picture something delegated, in the middle of a meeting, without clear understanding around how far they can go.

  • Do they think about it and take action?

  • Do they always check with you - which isn't going to be very effective at all, is it?.

  • Or do they take a special interest in the shine on their shoes, every time you start looking round for some help.

So, here are four sizes of delegation you can cut to fit both individuals and circumstances. You tell them that they judge each issue by the following ‘levels of authority':-

  1. Level One

    You make every decision in this area and deliver it without reference to me (the boss) (leaf).

  2. Level Two

    You make every decision on this and inform me as you take action (branch).

  3. Level Three

    You make decisions and discuss with me before you take action (trunk).

  4. Level Four

    Decisions in this area are so vital that we take decisions together after debate, before any action is taken (root).

The descriptions at the end of each line come from Susan Scott's excellent, if fearsome book Fierce Conversations. If you have a series of decisions you can take at leaf level, then they aren't going to be too disastrous if they go wrong (leaf falls off - not the end of the world). Up to root - where a mistake here can easily be life-threatening. It's a neat analogy.

For the boss, these levels give some degree of safety and analysis of a persons capabilities to make the right decisions. For the individual, they know how far they are permitted to go in an issue. This builds trust and confidence.

They also know the whole series of levels (the whole tree) exists and that they will be able to achieve a higher level if they show they can get this one right. Hugely rewarding and stimulating.

Having a boss who takes the care to set this up clearly also means, frankly, that they are probably setting up their individual employees to succeed and so will be around them as they need help and guidance (some might call it coaching!).

And a boss who is able to delegate a chunk of their work to people who may well be able to do it better and to grow their capabilities and confidence is the ultimate win-win.

Ah yes. And the business grows. What with all these employees growing in their skillset and confidence and with a boss who is working at peak, in a focused way, using his or her true strengths to the max.

Martin Haworth is a Business and Management Coach. He works worldwide, mainly by phone, with small business owners, managers and corporate leaders. He has hundreds of hints, tips and ideas at his website, http://www.coaching-businesses-to-success.com .

. . . helping you, to help your people, to help your business grow. . .

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