Diligent Delegation: How to Delegate to Different Competency Levels

Posted by Joseph Sherren on September 24, 2013

Effective delegation  enables a manager to be more proactive and less reactive, which is the secret to becoming more of a leader and less of a manager. Successful managers empower their employees by giving them greater participation in decisions that affect them and by expanding their responsibility for results.

The best way to empower people is to delegate real authority to them. Delegation is not just a matter of telling people what to do, it is much more complex than that.

Experienced managers understand there are four competency levels employees progress though. As well, employees will be at different capability levels on their various responsibilities and need to be coached according to their level of competency regarding that task. To be effective, a manager must use one of four styles of delegation to match each of those competency levels:

The first is Competency “1”. These are employees who have never done the specific task before and are worried or apprehensive about even accepting responsibility. This is when the manager delegates by providing very specific instructions and closely directing their task accomplishment. Contrary to popular belief, they do not need extensive encouragement or details. In fact, the more you explain to a competency 1, the more confused they become.

Competency “2” employees have done the task before with limited success. They are not experienced enough where you can leave them on their own, even though they will appear very enthusiastic about taking on the responsibility. The strategy for them is to inform or guide them. When delegating to this competency level, the manager must provide detailed information, rational why it is important, and enthusiastically encourage their progress by providing lots of positive feedback.

Competency “3” employees have solidly demonstrated the ability to carry out their responsibilities, but appear uncertain or apprehensive about being left on their own. Here is when a manager’s focus is to just inspire them. These people require a high level of socio-emotional support and encouragement. Do not engage in specific instruction on how or when to do something. The manager just asks leading questions to draw out the ability of the employee.

Competency “4” employees have a proven track record and demonstrate self confidence. Employees at this stage are fully competent. So the manager should just communicate the desired outcome then turn over the responsibility for decision making and problem solving to them. The manager would remains available for any updates or support requested by the employee.

When there is a mismatch between the manager’s style and the employee’s level of competency two things happen. 1) The work output is not at maximum performance, 2) you will observe defensive behavior which is either aggressive or passive from the employee. When there is a perfect match, you will get constructive behavior.

For employees at all competency levels, a manger should keep a delegation log. Each time an employee is assigned a task, it is recorded. The form should include; when the task was assigned, what are the specifics, what is the due date for completion, when was it completed and what quality rating would you give the effort.

Delegation is a key leadership quality. By learning this business tactic, you will help to improve your department’s ability to serve your organization, while at the same time showcasing the qualities of both your staff and yourself.

Managers who delegate appropriately experience lower stress levels, because it increases the probability of higher quality work and a more engaged staff member. It also provides more coaching opportunities and recognition for on-going employee activities.

My question for managers this week: “Are you accurately diagnosing the competency level of your employees and delegating responsibilities appropriately?”

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