Group of happy young  business people in a meeting at office

Some leaders see delegation as passing the plate. A leader’s plate gets full and time is at a premium, so passing the plate seems to be the quickest way out. The, leader, then becomes an “usher” rather than a player/coach.

Delegation should have more of a managerial purpose than that. Many leaders frustrate both themselves and their team members by delegating work without clear expectations. Master these three levels of delegation and you’ll get more done—and have a more energized team.

Level 1 – Bring me information. When all you want is information or options so that you can make a decision, you’re delegating at Level 1. A carefully worded request, covering the “What” and “When” of the assignment, will make it easier for a team member to process and fulfill it.

Level 2 – Ask for my approval. If you want a team member to make the actual decision but clear it with you first, you’re delegating at Level 2. Do you have a standardized communication system in place? Whether the expected response is electronic, hard copy, or even hand signals, your team needs to know how to get a Yes or No message to you.

Level 3 – Tell me what you did. This gives the staffer complete freedom to act within your organization’s value set, but keeps you in the loop. We live in a digital media culture, with a blizzard of words flying at almost straight line force. Does your team know your report expectations? Do you want the basic facts, or do you want a full-scale history lesson?

Level 4 – Handle it. Use this option when you have blind faith in the team member’s ability to act. The assignment is clearly defined, parameters are set, and communication methods are clarified; now its launch time. Delegation seasoned with affirmation is a completion in the making.

Setting expectations is critical for delegation. Clarify these levels with your team, then use the terms when delegating. Now, watch as the work . . . flows.


– Stan Toler