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Examining a 10-80-10 delegation model

By Ken Behr

behr1One of the most important aspects of leadership in any organization is the ability to delegate authority to others.

Delegation is especially key for leadership development, as well as maintaining a healthy work / life balance. At some point in a growing organization, it is literally impossible for one decision-maker to make all the decisions — and the sooner others are able to learn how to make decisions and handle authority, the faster they develop the leadership skills necessary for both the individual and the organization to succeed.

While these numbers — 10-80-10 — have been used to describe other processes or aspects within organizations, I use these numbers as percentages that conveniently equal 100 percent to intentionally describe how to identify when the leader and subordinate need to connect and when the subordinate is “on their own” in developing and coordinating tasks, projects and ongoing processes.

10% leader directs
The first 10% is critical as it allows the leader to direct and clarify the objective, the scope, the resources and the time expectations of any new project, task or assignment. For example, the purchase of a new piece of equipment is task that is assigned to the subordinate by the leader. The purpose, function, use and budget is discussed, as well as any important factors. Both the leader and the subordinate use and sharpen their communication skills as they discuss and listen to each other as the purchase is envisioned.

80% subordinate collects
The middle 80% is the duty and responsibility of the subordinate as the project, task or assignment takes shape. In the example of the purchase of a new piece of equipment, various alternative products are compared, prices reviewed and some initial negotiation takes place. The subordinate might have already been delegated some authority to purchase within specific parameters or from specific vendors. Alternatives, options, pricing and timing are considerations that need to be fully understood, processed and ultimately communicated with the leader in the final 10%

10% leader reflects
The final 10% provides the leader with all the information necessary to reflect on all of the information collected to make the right decision. When the 10-80-10 is functioning effectively, a thoughtful and articulate recommendation is presented by the subordinate that makes it easy for the leader to understand any important aspects of the project, task or assignment and gives the leader the opportunity to fine-tune any detail (i.e., color, timing, placement) either based on preference or for standardization.

The 10-80-10 Delegation Model works just as well, if not even better, for ongoing projects and assignments. It provides for a quick review at the beginning and the end of any cycle (i.e., class, calendar or fiscal year, purchase, season). The advantage is that if scheduled intentionally, it provides a framework for continuous improvement in communication (both oral and written), process and leadership development. Leaders can have confidence that they will have the first and the last say on all important projects, tasks or assignments and subordinates get a clear understanding of the desires, wishes and concerns of the leader.

Ken-Behr-bloggerKen Behr is the executive director of Faith Dialogue, a faith-based nonprofit in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.


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