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The Four Stages of Delegation

delegationAs I work with leaders in education, business, non-profits, and churches—it’s clear that the subject of delegation is still a hot one. Lasting leaders know what must get done, then understand how to “broker” the talents of their team members, and use delegation appropriately to get the work to the right people, in the right proportions.

Over my career, I’ve observed there are four stages of getting the work done. See if you can spot yourself on this list:

Stage One: Doing

You probably got your first job as a leader because you’re a “doer.” By this, I mean you are a person who gets results. Come what may, you are a person of action; initiative; productivity. So—the first stage most of us experience is: we do all the work ourselves. The problem is, if we continue in this stage, we burn out.

Stage Two: Dumping

Stage two is a coping mechanism. We grow frustrated with doing it all, so we begin dumping work on others. Just to get rid of the excess, we unload some undesirable tasks on team members around us. The problem with this is—no healthy teammate will stay very long in this kind of environment. No one likes to get “dumped on.”

Stage Three: Delegating

So, we’re forced to move to stage three. In this one, we’ve matured enough to see we must plan ahead, discovering where to best delegate projects. We find people with available time and suitable talent, and we sit down to talk over the tasks. This is healthy and no one burns out, but it’s still not the highest level for leaders to live.

Stage Four: Developing

This final stage is the ultimate. In it, leaders plan ahead and delegate tasks, but that’s a by-product of an even higher ambition. The real goal for leaders at this stage is the development of another team member. The work is distributed to the right people, but more importantly, the focus is on the leadership development of those people.

This is actually a common sequence of phases for most professionals. Most of us never reach stage four, where production is a secondary outcome. The long-term goal and result is the equipping of a new leader, who will begin this journey herself.

Do you see yourself in these stages? What will it take to move to the next one?

2 Comments

  1. Dave Anderson on March 1, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Moving to the next stage takes first being sure you know the strengths of those you intend to delegate to.  If I sit down and plan based on who I have to get things done not just what I have to do, productivity and growth will come for the individual and the team as a whole.

    If someone is naturally gifted at relating to others and I ask them to sit behind a computer and do research for the team, I may not burn out but they will.

    I must be more intentional.  I like your stages Tim.  Simple and on target too!

    • Tim Elmore on March 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      That’s an important distinction to make – knowing the talents of your team is critical! Thanks for sharing.

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The Four Stages of Delegation