Are They Ready?

Management is essentially working with and through others to accomplish your organization's goals. A leader's role is to raise employees' aspirations for what they can become, and get them to release their energies to try. By now you know that you can't do everything yourself, and you understand the importance of delegating, as well as when to delegate and whom to delegate to. The next question is, how do you know what approach to use, depending upon the employee's readiness?

To talk about readiness assessment, we first have to talk about what employees need from you in order to feel comfortable enough to take on a task. Before anything else, you must have the following:

  • A clear direction. 
  • Clear communication. 
  • The employee's trust. 

Got those? Good! (If you answered no, you have some serious issues that must be resolved before anything else can move forward. Get to it!)

The next step is to identify your leadership style. Your leadership style is your patterns of behavior as perceived by others. There are basically 2 leadership styles:

  • Directing behavior: You define the employee's role and responsibility, explain & clarify what to do, when, and how. In a nutshell, one-way communication, all coming from you. 
  • Supporting behavior: You set positive expectations, praise, encourage, and listen. All two-way communication. 

Readiness is essentially ability (knowledge, skill, clear on priorities) + willingness (desire, confidence, incentive). Remember, willingness is often a measure of confidence. Before assigning a task, ask yourself if the employee has:

  • Task-specific experience 
  • Task-specific training 
  • An understanding of the priority of the task 
  • Desire 
  • Incentive (this is usually the opportunity to shine, or to advance at some point down the road - not money) 

There are four levels of readiness:
  • R4 = High Readiness (Ability High and Willingness High) 
  • R3 = Moderate to High Readiness (Ability High and Willingness Not High) 
  • R2 = Low to Moderate Readiness (Ability Not High and Willingness High) 
  • R1 = Low Readiness (Ability Not High and Willingness Not High) 

Each of the four levels requires a different delegation style:
  • R1 = Directing (Explain and clarify what, where, when, and how.) 
  • R2 = Coaching (Instruct and convince via 2-way discussion. Explain the 'why'.) 
  • R3 = Supporting (Support them to reinforce their ideas and confidence.) 
  • R4 - Autonomy (Follow up and support as needed/as determined by employee.) 

No matter which readiness level an employee is at, defer to their approach, but define the deliverables. Remember that your way of doing things is not the only way, and not even necessarily the best way. There will be mistakes, but your employer should be allowed to make them and to learn from them.

Last but not least, only ask their input about things that have not already been decided. You wouldn't ask your son or daughter where they would like to go to dinner if you've already made up your mind about it, would you? That would only undermine their confidence in their ability to make decisions, your interest in their input, and their trust in you.

Here's a handy readiness reference chart that you can print for your office or cube wall:

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