How to Employ the Five Levels of Delegation

It is so important to use the same language and terms to gain your intended effect! When the intent is not clearly understood by all, there may be significant repercussions. As an example, there’s an old joke about how to tell the difference of each military branch based upon the command, “Secure the building.” When given this command:
  • The Navy would turn out the lights and lock the doors.
  • The Army would surround the building with defensive fortifications.
  • The Marine Corps would assault the building, using overlapping fields of fire from all appropriate points on the perimeter.
  • The Air Force would take out a three-year lease with an option to buy the building.
Clearly articulating intent is imperative for effectiveness towards a team’s outcome.
In this spirit, when you delegate, consider adopting a common vernacular to support your intent. One way to accomplish this is to describe the level of involvement from the individual supporting you.
Consider adopting a model called the Five Levels of Delegation which may help describe your intent. This model can be introduced in a team environment, hung on a wall in a conference room, or just used for your own reference in ensuring you communicate your intent with the person you are delegating a task or project. These levels include:
  • Level 1: I do all the work, and you do exactly what I have asked you to do. Don’t deviate from my instructions. I have already researched the options and determined what I want you to do. Execute accordingly.
  • Level 2: You research the topic and report back. We will discuss your findings. I will then make a decision, and ask you to execute the option I select.
  • Level 3: You research the topic, outline the options, and make a recommendation. Give me the pros and cons of each option, and give me your perspective on what you think we should do. If I agree with your decision, I will authorize you to move forward. If I do not agree, we will discuss next steps.
  • Level 4: You make a decision and then tell me what you did. I trust you to do the research, make the best decision you can, and then keep me in the loop.
  • Level 5: You make whatever decision you think is best. You have my full support and do not need to report back to me on the path you take.
These levels could really help all parties understand your intent when delegating a task or project. Since effective communication is essential in a team’s success, consider making sure those on your team are all using the same language.

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