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Discovering the eight levels of autonomy

From: Delegating Tasks to Your Team

Video: Discovering the eight levels of autonomy

During the handover phase, you'll want to get clear about how much autonomy you're giving the employee to do this task. Make sure that they share the same understanding as you. Autonomy is the level of independence a person has to complete a task. One of the most frequent problems that happens in delegation is lack of clarity about the level of autonomy being given. I cannot emphasize enough how important this aspect is to successful delegation. There are actually eight different levels of autonomy you can give your employee, with level one being the least amount of autonomy and level eight being the most.

Discovering the eight levels of autonomy

During the handover phase, you'll want to get clear about how much autonomy you're giving the employee to do this task. Make sure that they share the same understanding as you. Autonomy is the level of independence a person has to complete a task. One of the most frequent problems that happens in delegation is lack of clarity about the level of autonomy being given. I cannot emphasize enough how important this aspect is to successful delegation. There are actually eight different levels of autonomy you can give your employee, with level one being the least amount of autonomy and level eight being the most.

These were identified by Ross Webber, who's authored several books on management, and I'm expanding on his idea. I know that for myself, learning about the eight levels changed the way I delegated for the better. I was much more clear with both myself and my delegate, which made the whole process better for everyone. These levels are differentiated by four things, the level of analysis the delegate provides, who makes the decision, who takes action, and the amount of communication that takes place. You'll find the levels of autonomy handout in the exercise files for this course.

Let's discuss each level. In level one, the delegate has no autonomy. The delegate looks into the problem, gathers the information, and gives it to the manager who makes the decision. The manager also takes the action. In level two, the delegate explores the alternatives available, noting the pros and cons of each option. The delegate presents this analysis to the manager who still makes the decision and takes the action. In level three, the delegate explores the options and makes the decision, recommending a course of action to the manager.

The manager approves the decision, but the manager still takes the action. In level four, the delegate explores the option and makes the decision about a course of action. But the delegate cannot implement the action until the manager approves it at which time the delegate takes the action. In level five, the delegate informs the manager of his or her plans and can take the action unless the manager vetoes it. In level six, the delegate takes the action and informs the manager after the fact, what was done and how it turned out.

In level seven, the delegate takes the action and only communicates with the manager if the action was not successful. In level eight, the delegate has complete autonomy. The delegate takes the action and does not need to communicate anything to the manager. As you can see, there's more complexity than you might imagine. Lack of clarity about autonomy is the source of almost all problems that occur during delegation. Be sure that you take the time to decide what level you are granting the delegate and then communicate that level to him or her. It's important that you're both in agreement.

One final note about autonomy: a lot of exciting research has been done lately on what motivates employees. Study after study is showing that motivation is driven by three key factors: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. To learn more, read the book DRiVE by Dan Pink, or watch his TED Talk. In addition to determining the level of autonomy you give the delegate, you also need to give the corresponding authority. Authority is the access and decision-making power the delegate will need to accomplish the task. When you are deciding how much authority to give, grant the delegate plenty, rather than too little.

If you don't give enough authority, the delegate may have to keep coming back to you, making the task take longer. You need to communicate this granted authority to the key players the delegate will interact with during the task. This can be as simple as a brief email, or as elaborate as a formal meeting. But the bottom line is that appropriate people should know that this delegation has occurred so that they can support your employees' success. You'll see that there is a place to note autonomy and authority on the delegation brief form.

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Delegating Tasks to Your Team

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Britt Andreatta
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