Delegation doesn’t have to be all or nothing. In fact, you should consider what level of delegation is appropriate for the task, the employee, and the situation. Leadership activities can help to make these determinations.
The Five Levels of Delegation
Let’s say that we want an employee to prepare a summary report of their work over the past year that will be submitted to the executive team. How will each level of delegation look?
The first level of delegation is to have the employee perform the task exactly as instructed with no independence. In our example, we might give the employee a report template, the data, and similar reports. Then, we’ll ask them to complete the report and submit it by a certain date.
The second level of delegation is to allow the employee to do some research (if necessary) and then give you options for the task. You make the decision, and the employee completes the task according to your instructions. In our example, the employee might research different formats and give you some different options. They may also draft a list of items that they want to include in the report. Then, you will outline the format and contents for them. They will complete the report.
The third level of delegation is similar to the second, except that an employee makes a recommendation. Continuing with our report example, the employee would recommend a format and possibly prepare an outline. You would approve it and ask the employee to complete and submit the report.
The fourth level of delegation is where independence really comes into play. This is the level that you will use most often once team members get up to speed. With our report example, you would simply ask the employee to complete the report and submit it by a certain date. (They may use existing procedures or templates, but the bulk of the decisions are up to them.) You would then review the report, approve it, and send it to the executive team.
The fifth level of delegation gives the employee complete freedom. With our report example, you would ask the employee to complete the report and submit it directly to the executive team. You may ask the employee to send you a copy of the report, but you would not have any active role in it.
Leadership activities can aid a supervisor in understanding which level of delegation will be appropriate for any given situation.