“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it.”

– Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President


A key management task and skill is effective delegation.  One cynic commented that if you want to get something done, give it to the laziest person around because he has already figured out how to get people to do his work.  Unfortunately it seems that too many managers take this to heart, primarily I suspect, because no one has taught them an effective way of delegating tasks to staff.


So, what type of delegator are you?

  1. The LD (Lazy Delegator)? You really have enough to do so you pass on everything else that comes along to a subordinate.
  2. The MD (Micromanaging Delegator)? You delegate tasks to subordinates but hover over them telling them how to do everything so that in the end it would have been faster to do it yourself.
  3. The UTD (Unpleasant Task Delegator)? You slough off everything that is hard or unpleasant to do, keeping all the new, exciting, career-enhancing stuff for yourself.
  4. The DD (Duplicate Delegator)? You don’t really trust the first person you delegate something, so you give it to others as well.
  5. The TCD (Take Credit Delegator)? If the delegated task is successful you take the credit for it; if unsuccessful, you blame the employees who actually did the work.
  6. The HCD (Haven’t a Clue Delegator)? You have no idea how to complete a task so you delegate to someone else hoping that s/he will know how it should be done.


So, if you want to improve your management skills, develop your staff, and avoid any of the categories listed above, what can you do?  A quick Google search reveals that there may be 4,5,6,7 or even 10 levels of delegation.  And since none of the writers seem to credit anyone else, I have put together a simple, I hope, compilation of the various outline of the levels of delegation that you can use.


The level of delegation you employ should reflect the maturity and experience of the staff member who will be carrying out your request.


Level 1 Delegation: Gather information.  This first level is intended as a means for you to evaluate new or inexperienced employees.  You ask them to gather the required information, and you can determine whether they can assess the situation in a comprehensive manner and locate all relevant material. Be sure that you define the task clearly, deadlines that must be met, and (this is important) when they have completed the task, review it with them so that they get important feedback on their ability to evaluate what is required.


Level 2 Delegation: Make a recommendation as to the best solution.  Level two asks the employee to not only gather all relevant material for decision making, but to analyze the material and make a recommendation (with justification) as to the best route to follow.  If the recommendation is deficient in some way, make sure that you explain to the employee why you believe their recommendation is not the best one.


Level 3 Delegation: Develop an Action Plan.  When you develop confidence in an employee’s ability to select the best course of action, level three delegation means that you now ask them to develop an action plan to implement the recommendation, and implement it.   Up to this point employees are not acting independently.


Level 4 Delegation: Make the Decision.  By level four you should have developed the confidence in the employee’s ability on the first three levels, so you are ready to hand over the responsibility for making the appropriate decision to him/her. You will, especially at the beginning, want to monitor their progress, coach where required.  Your major role will be to step in if there are unexpected problems or an unforeseen crisis.  For employees at this level, it does not mean that you do not check in with them on some sort of regular timeline to determine progress, of course.


Level 5 Delegation: Full Delegation.  When employees reach this level, they will be expected to assume full responsibility and authority for the project, and except in cases of its going off the rails, they do not have to report to you at all, get permission, or approval.   For this to work, you must have complete confidence and trust in their ability to have progressed through the first four levels.


And by the way – at what level does your boss place you???