Delegating – The 7 Levels of Delegation

Let’s take a quick break from the “Practical phrases and scripts for non-native English speaker working in Tech” series and talk about delegation.

Today I want to share a concept called 7 Levels of Delegation. This model was first introduced in the book Management 3.0, by Jurgen Appelo.

First, why delegate?

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

— African Proverb (?)

We have limited resources. We can handle 10 things ourselves and deliver on 1 brilliant work and 9 mediocre work. Or we can train ourselves to think Who — who would be able to help me with this, and tap into their brilliance. Some people enjoy and are better at doing things that are not exactly our highest-value activities.

As a maker turned manager, this is one of the biggest challenge many of us struggle with when transitioning. How to let go of control and trust your team to go out (with training wheels or not) and deliver. How to provide them with the Why and What and let them decide on the How. To help them succeed in the role.

As a leader, this is arguably the skill you need to hone the most. Selling the vision and taking people on that journey with you means you’re executing the highest level of delegation.

Delegation, at its core, is about asking for help. I recently wrote in my other newsletter about how learning to ask for help is at the top of my priority list right now. Let’s now look at how to apply this skill in the context of Working Smart and Leveling Up in Your Career as a Tech Worker.

The 7 Levels of Delegation

  1. Tell: I will tell them. You make a decision for others and you may explain your motivation. A discussion about it is neither desired nor assumed.
  2. Sell: I will try and sell it to them. You make a decision for others but try to convince them that you made the right choice, and you help them feel involved.
  3. Consult: I will consult and then decide. You ask for input first, which you take it into consideration before making a decision that respects people’s opinions.
  4. Agree: We will agree together. You enter into a discussion with everyone involved, and as a group you reach consensus about the decision.
  5. Advise: I will advise but they decide. You will offer others your opinion and hope they listen to your wise words, but it will be their decision, not yours.
  6. Inquire: I will inquire after they decide. You first leave it to the others to decide, and afterwards, you ask them to convince you of the wisdom of their decision.
  7. Delegate: I will fully delegate. You leave the decision to them and you don’t even want to know about details that would just clutter your brain.

One interesting thing about this model is that it’s symmetrical. Quoting Jurgen

It works in both directions. Level 2 is similar to level 6, when viewed from the opposite perspective. And level 3, asking for input, is the reverse of level 5, which is about offering input.

References

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