I was doing research for the Service Community of Practice this last week, for our session on Delegation and Accountability.  The research confirms that effective delegation is good for business, in that if used appropriately, it can be used as a tool to develop employees within their career development plans within your organization and increasing their engagement.  This also enables your senior leaders to be able to spend more time on the business rather than in the business.


Now depending on which model you prefer, there are either 5 levels or 7 levels of delegation.

The 5 levels of delegation are:

  1. Do what I say and is very directive.
  2. Research which allows more consultation.
  3. Approve is the most common level and includes the ability to make a decision after approval from the manager / leader.
  4. Report Back takes things further in that the decision can be made independently, and the leader only needs to be advised of your plan.
  5. Delegated is when full authority is provided to handle the task.

The 7 levels of delegation are based on Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Continuum of Leadership, and are:

  1. Tell: Manager makes the decision and directs action.
  2. Sell: Manager makes the decision and tries to get buy-in for the decision
  3. Suggest: Manager asks for input and suggestions, prior to making a decision.
  4. Consult: Manager and team consult to come to an agreement re: the decision
  5. Join: Manager offers their input and advice, but decision is made by them.
  6. Delegate: Manager asks the other person to suggest a decision and convince the manager of that course of action.
  7. Abdicate: Manager leaves the decision to them and doesn’t want / need to know anything more.

Having these levels laid out in a logical framework like this, makes it so much easier for both parties to have clarity about what is and isn’t being delegated.

I also found a great 4 step framework that helps to ensure the greatest chances of success when delegating something to another team member.

The 4 steps include clearly defining and articulating:

  1. The task
  2. The accountability required
  3. The responsibility being assigned
  4. The authority being approved

As senior leaders, we should be encouraging our next layer of leaders to build their delegation skills by helping them to get clarity about what delegation actually includes in terms of authority, accountability, and responsibility.

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