You don’t have enough time. Your schedule is full, there’s work to get done, and there are so many things to figure out. You’ve got bigger plans for your career and you want to spend more time with family.
So you decide to delegate.
You’ll do the things that absolutely require your expertise and find others to do the rest. And you’ll accomplish more. It’s simple.
However, it’s not simple. You can’t just say, “You do this!” and expect a yield of good results. Some tasks require guidance, some require research, and others create questions to consider. It’s a deliberate practice that requires some thought.
The Three Levels of Delegation
When you think of delegating you may ask yourself these questions:
- How can I be clear about what I ask of others? Because sometimes I am not so clear.
- How do I increase the chance that things are done the way I want them done? Because I don’t want to create work that I’ll have to undo.
- Who would best accomplish this task? Other than me.
Think of delegation as having these three levels and the process becomes clearer:
Level 1: “Do exactly this.”
This is the simplest level of delegation. You assign very specific tasks that you want completed in a specific way.
- “Get me the Hemoglobin from this morning and from last week.”
- “Reserve a king size bed in DC for TEDMED next April at the JW Marriott.”
- “Perform a screen capture of all [Derek Sivers] blog posts using Skitch and put it in the [Excellent Writing] folder on Evernote.”
These tasks are like checkboxes on a to-do list. They require effort, but not much thought.
Level 2: “Figure it out and get back to me.”
These tasks require multiple steps and decision points. They are more like projects.
You give someone a topic to research. They gather the facts and consider the approach. Then they get back to you to discuss their findings and make recommendations on how to proceed.
This level of delegation often takes the form of a question.
- “Should we use Basecamp or something else to manage our projects?”
- “How do we best contact patients when there are critical lab values?”
- “Should we hire a recruiter or do it ourselves?”
While this is more advanced delegation, you remain an intrinsic part of the decision-making process. They figure out possible anwers to your questions, and you decide together.
Level 3: “You’re the Project CEO.”
Make someone the CEO of a project. You give them full responsibility and accountability. They make the decisions, they figure out the approach, and they get it done.
- “I’m appointing you as the Director of Service and Operational Excellence.”
- “Build a team of scribes that can help our physicians.”
- “You are in charge of planning the retreat.”
This is the ultimate in delegation. You provide vision and clarify goals. You remain available as a resource. But they own it.
When do I use Level 1 or Level 3?
The more familiarity and trust that you have with someone, the higher the level of delegation that you’ll use with that person.
When you first work with someone, it’s more common to use level 1 or level 2 delegation. You delegate specific tasks and work closely during each step. As questions arise, you have an opportunity to teach and learn.
You become familiar with each other’s working styles and expectations. Soon you can predict the amount of direction that is needed and move towards ‘Level 3 Project CEO’ delegation.
What went wrong?
As you begin, you are the most common reason that delegation fails. You’re going to think that you are clear, and you’re not. The individual you work with is wondering what you are asking and how to satisfy your opaque expectations.
Start your initial experiments in delegation at level 1. You will find that what you thought was a one step task, was actually a multi-step project that needs further thought. This is good, because as you experience this discomfort, you will gain insight, and your delegation skills will improve.
- Find some level 1 tasks to delegate and try it out.
- Hire an Executive Assistant and delegate your calendar and email.
- Pick the individual who will take your place and delegate increasing responsibility as a part of succession planning.