Practicing the art of delegating allows you to work less and create more value. Good delegators deploy six levels of delegation. Master delegators go one step further to utilize directed delegation across the six levels. They know that directing work to the people with the most applicable strengths leads to better results. And they know the importance of providing those people with clear direction in realizing their vision and values.

Recall the six levels of delegation from my article on the Art of Delegation:

    1. Do well yourself
    2. Do yourself, but just well enough
    3. Delegate and supervise
    4. Delegate and trust
    5. Do later
    6. Do never

Recall further the critical role of milestone management in level three delegation.

Now let’s look at the two parts of directed delegation: 1) Directing work to the people with the most applicable strengths; and 2) Providing those people with clear direction.


Direct work to the people with the most applicable strengths

Gallup suggest strengths are made up of talent + knowledge + skills:

Talent: Innate, naturally occurring preferences.

Knowledge: Acquired through learning.

Skills: Acquired through practice.

People doing things that leverage their strengths are going to be more motivated to do things well. Given the right direction and encouragement they will move beyond compliance to contributing. Given the opportunity to co-create a vision, they are more likely to commit to the cause.

The point is simply that not all people are right for all tasks. Be discerning and delegate tasks to the people with the strengths and motivation to do well.


Provide those people with clear direction

The second plank of directed delegation is providing the people with the strengths and motivation to do well with clear direction A million years ago one of my bosses at Procter & Gamble asked me to do something. I did it. He told me I hadn’t done it right and had to do it again. I did. Again. And again. And again. Finally I went to him and said, “I feel like I’m in a dark room trying to hit a target. I keep missing. And all you tell me is that I missed. But you’re not telling me to aim higher or lower or left or right. If you tell me what you want, I’m more likely to be able to deliver it.”

Tell people what you want. The elements of a team charter work for teams and individuals:

  • Objectives/Goals – Clarify what specific, measurable results (SMARTER) they are asked to deliver.
  • Context – Provide the information that led to the objectives/goals you gave them. A part of this is the intent behind the objectives so they know how their output will impact others and what will happen after the objective is achieved.
  • Resources – Explain the human, financial, and operational resources available to the individuals or team. Also make them aware of other teams, groups, units working in parallel, supporting or interdependent areas.
  • Guidelines – Clarify what individuals and the team can and cannot do with regard to roles and decisions. Lay out the interdependencies between the team being chartered and the other teams involved.
  • Accountability – Be clear on accountability structure, update timing, completion timing.

The more clear the direction, the easier it will be for others to deliver what you want and need.

In many ways, the guidelines and accountability are the critical differentiators between level 3 and level 4 delegation.

For level 3 things you are going to delegate and supervise, you’ll have milestones along the way so you can check in, learn with those you’ve delegated to and improve your current best thinking together. The guidelines and accountabilities will reflect that tighter management.

For level 4 things you are going to delegate and not supervise, the briefing needs to be both more clear and more flexible at the same time as you and these people must have the same picture of success and they must have room to flex their approach without checking back with you.