Developing your people: a challenge of management | AUA Blog

Dr. Kenton Lewis MBE
Independent Consultant and Educationalist

As managers it is easy to understand the value of improving the performance of your staff. We want them to feel appropriately empowered and skilled, to have the confidence to perform their tasks effectively, to know their limitations and when to seek support, and to be building their ability and their capacity as they grow in their role(s).

What is sometimes harder to engage with is the extent to which we as managers can make this happen. It is a nuanced balance between multiple factors and context. There are times when we may err towards directional approaches of coercion, instruction and performance measurement. We may, at other times, lean towards more supportive and facilitative approaches of coaching, questioning and high-autonomy delegating.

The real skill in effective staff management is knowing which approach to apply at which point, and being flexible enough to navigate the complexity of hierarchical staff relationships in a professional and effective manner. In this short blog I consider ways in which delegation can help with this navigation.

Delegation is not as simply as telling someone to perform a task – there are a range of levels of authority, responsibility, accountability and autonomy to be considered. A recognition of this range, and conscious decision making about which option to choose, is central in effective management and in facilitating staff development:

Instruct – where there is an absence of delegated freedom
“Follows these instructions to the letter”

Investigate – where the delegator maintains control
“Find out the situation then I’ll tell you what to do”

Investigate, with shared ownership – where the delegator and staff member reach a joint position
“Find out the situation then we’ll decide what to do”

Investigate, with guided ownership – where the delegator starts to empower the staff member
“Find out the situation, let me know what help you need in assessing it, and then we’ll decide what to do”

Analyse and recommend (negative default) – where the staff member owns their own recommendation, but the delegator maintains final say
“Let me know what you plan to do and why; I’ll then confirm whether to go ahead”

Analyse and recommend (positive default) – where a small increase in delegated ownership can be liberating
“Let me know what you plan to do and why; proceed unless I tell you otherwise.”

Decide and report – where ownership is delegated with scope for the delegator to follow up
“Decide what to do and do it, making sure to tell me what you’ve done.”

Decide and proceed – where the delegator remains accountable, but has high confidence in the staff member
“Decide what to do and do it; we’ll look out for the results further down the line”

Delegate responsibility, not task – where high level ownership is delegated for a specific strategic area
“I want you to manage the situation, taking appropriate actions as you see fit”

This blog piece has been a short introduction to one of the key themes in effectively developing your staff. If you would like to learn more, or would like to start a conversation, please feel free either to contact me directly, or to sign up to the AUA training programme Developing your people; more details about the course and how to sign up can be found here.


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