3 Levels of Delegation

by Shaun R Smith on March 13, 2012

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There are three different levels of delegation, and knowing when to use each will be critical to your success in growing your business.

- Task Level Delegation

- Project Level Delegation

- Responsibility Delegation


Task Level Delegation

Task-level delegation is when you ask an employee to complete a task. The employee becomes an extension of you in this case. He or she is doing something you don’t have time to complete yourself. When you perform task-level delegation, you are not really tapping into an employee’s creativity or full potential. You are directing that person to do one small act exactly as you request. You are still the brain behind the activity that is getting completed. This the lowest form of delegation.

In the case of an assistant, you’d ask him or her to file papers in an existing filing system. The employee is an extension of you: he or she takes care of something relatively simple that you don’t have time to complete yourself.


Project Level Delegation

The next level of delegation is project-level delegation—when you give someone the responsibility of completing a project. You might be involved in outlining the project or even defining the steps, but it is their responsibility to see the project through to completion. They have a little more room to incorporate their own skills in this level of delegation. More of their brainpower is used as they fulfill the steps to bring success to this project.

In the example of filing, you might ask the assistant to organize all the loose documents in your office. The goal of the project is eliminating all of the paper in your office. In this instance, a little more is expected of the assistant. He needs to plan the project—fleshing out the details, and then following through without task-by-task supervision.


Responsibility Delegation

The highest level of delegation is responsibility delegation. With this type of delegation, you give someone on your team the responsibility of solving a problem or handling an issue. You may work with them to define boundaries, create a budget, set up a frequency for checking in, and you may also give them resources they need to deal with the issue, but it is up to that employee to come up with an overall plan of action. A team member with responsibility delegation has a lot of freedom to capitalize on an opportunity or create a solution to a problem.

In our filing example, the responsibility is to keep your office organized on an ongoing basis. You might give him resources or a budget, or require milestone reporting, but it is up to the assistant to come up with an overall plan of action. Perhaps he’ll create a simple filing system, as above. Perhaps he’ll set up a paperless office for you in ways that wouldn’t have occurred to you. Perhaps he’ll access his personal resources in some way that wouldn’t be available to you. A team member with responsibility delegation has a lot of freedom to create a solution to a problem or take advantage of an opportunity.

The more you surround yourself with people who are better than you are at their given responsibilities, the more important it is to bestow the highest level of delegation. Giving only task level duties and assignments to a team member who possesses high levels of intelligence, creativity, and motivation will create a frustrated, bored, and demoralized employee.

Don’t let your ego and insecurities keep those around you smaller than they actually are. Remember, a great leader is someone who creates leaders!


Photo by: Fabrizio Salvetti



Mary White March 16, 2012 at 7:18 am

Great breakdown and thoughts on delegation, which I can attest is a key component of a business’s success and business owner’s sanity. As a business owner your articles always cause me to pause and think about productivity, procedures and my attitude on how to complete a task. Once again, thank you!

Kim Ellison March 16, 2012 at 9:40 am

Great article. One of the issues I have always encountered is that most people (including myself) do not delegate or know how to. We continue to do the same tasks daily, but get nothing done and don’t encourage others to “think outside the box or trust them to think outside the box”. Creativey and giving people automonomy is the best way for everyone to thrive. Delegating responsibilities should be on the top of everyone’s list. Imagine if all the world leaders never delegated. Again, Great article.

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