Quick Studies

Delegate Tasks Based on Competence Levels

Delegating tasks to encourage employee capability takes time and energy. But tailoring your delegation style to match your employee’s competence level will increase their competency in the long run.

As much as we’d like to believe that delegating a task ends once you’ve assigned someone else to do it, global CEO coach Sabina Nawaz explains that true delegation involves investing your time and energy. Although this may feel counterintuitive, providing guidance and feedback leads to more capable employees and saves time in the long run. Follow Nawaz’s “Delegation Dial” to increase your team’s overall productivity:

  1. Analyze your employee’s competence level. Start by asking a few direct questions, such as “what is your comfort level with this task?” “What approach would you take to complete this assignment?” “Are there particular steps you are not sure about?” Understanding the employee’s knowledge and comfort level with the task will help you gauge how you should tailor your delegation style.
  2. Adjust your style to fit the employee’s capability. Adjusting how much guidance you provide will promote learning while empowering your employee. Based on their level of competence, you should:
    • Do. If the employee lacks the experience and knowledge to complete the task, you can start by doing the task yourself and have the employee shadow you. This gives the employee a chance to get to know the steps that are necessary to get to the finished product.
    • Tell. If the employee recognizes that they don’t know how to execute a task, encourage self-reflection. This will speed learning by allowing them to synthesize learning in a way that makes sense to them, and call your attention to specific areas where they need support.
    • Teach. If the employee seems comfortable with some steps of the task but not others, spend some time showing them how you perform the task and explaining why you are doing it a certain way. Calling out specific steps in the process can deepen their understanding by revealing the underlying reasons and structure of the task.
    • Ask. If the employee is capable of completing the task but relies on step-by-step instruction rather than an automatic process, you can increase the employee’s grasp by asking what they have learned. Questions such as “what is a key insight that you have learned?” will allow the employee to process their knowledge better.
    • Support. Even if the employee is fully capable of completing the task, communicate that you are available to support the employee when needed. Schedule changes and wrinkles can develop, and it is important for the employee to know that you are available to help.


Published February 7, 2017

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