The phases of delegation

There are very good reasons why it can feel difficult to delegate. At the core of the leader of leaders’ role is the challenge of being responsible for outcomes and work quality that you don’t have direct control over. But good leaders are concerned about working getting done to a high standard.

Liked this post? Share with others!

“It’s quicker if I just do it myself!”

Every leader has said this at some time. When you are leading a team of technical professionals and you have been one yourself, it may be true. Once you are a leader of leaders, your default setting has to be that you never ‘just do it yourself’. I’ve also heard leaders and others way over-analyze the problem.

“Oh yes, I can’t let go, I have real control issues.”

This makes it more difficult by treating the behaviour of doing other people’s work as a personality deficiency.

There are very good reasons why it can feel difficult to delegate. At the core of the leader of leaders’ role is the challenge of being responsible for outcomes and work quality that you don’t have direct control over. But good leaders are concerned about working getting done to a high standard.

In work-culture terms, a ‘sandbox’ is a defined space with clear boundaries that contains a range of tools and resources that the people in the sandbox are free to use as they like. The sandbox is a great metaphor for this important practice, which is one of the key aspects of being a leader of leaders.

So, how can you break the DIY pattern? Here are four phases of delegation that you can use to make sure you give people their sandbox where they can lead, and that enables you to be comfortable enough that things are on track.

Phase 1: The leader is authorised to investigate/review a function or project and then report back to you to confirm their understanding

This phase may be as simple as giving the person material to review or it may mean authorising them to go and speak to other people inside or outside of the organisation. Don’t forget to let the people know the leader will be talking to know that you have asked the person to meet with them.

This is a low-risk activity for both you and your reporting leader. They get to build their understanding of the new area of responsibility, and you get a sense of whether they are getting their head around it

Phase 2: The leader is authorised to investigate/review and make recommendations to you

In this phase, team leaders are authorised to plan and execute projects or functions under your guidance with input from you as needed for decisions. While they can make their own decisions about how best to complete tasks, the leader will still need an okay from you before making final judgement calls (e.g., hiring new staff).

Phase 3: The leader is authorised to investigate/review and act, then report back to you

It’s in this phase that you are really letting the person run their new area of responsibility. By this phase, you will have a high degree of confidence that they know what they are doing and have demonstrated that they have enough knowledge and leadership skill to take on the new responsibility.

Phase 4: The leader is authorised to act on an ongoing basis and report back to you on a monthly or quarterly basis

At this point your team leader is fully autonomous and can make final judgement calls without involving you first. Leaders in these sandboxes should feel like they are trusted with full autonomy to get the job done, while still being accountable for their decisions.

You can use these four phases to delegate small projects or whole areas of responsibility. The phased approach helps you to empower your leaders and still make sure quality outcomes are achieved.

Being Leaders delivers a leadership development program, working with people who are navigating their leader-of-leaders role. Based on the concepts in the Amazon best-seller, Becoming a Leader of Leaders, the program provides practical tools and resources to help people transform from overworked to incredibly impactful.

Transform your people from overworked to incredibly impactful.

Contact Being Leaders to find out more.

Subscribe to the Being Leaders newsletter

Be the first to know when we share new leadership insights.

Is your way-of-being impacting your leadership?

The answer is yes. Leadership happens in moments; moments of sense-making, moments of relationship-building, and moments of decision-making. Your way-of-being is your overall state at any moment of the day. It determines how you adapt, respond and lead at any given moment.

Read More »

Ready to up-skill your leadership team?

Find out how Being Leaders can meet your organisations leadership development needs. 

Got a question? Let us know.