Delegating By Degrees is Effective Leadership

In advising private businesses, I am frequently trying to help owners delegate more effectively to their teams. It is hard to get the executives to give up making all the decisions. Making fewer decisions is part of the challenge; influencing less decisions is even harder.

Sergio Zyman, the former Chief Marketing Officer at Coca-Cola, in his book “The End of Marketing As We Know It,” wrote about the decision making process he used with his team, broken down into 5 levels:

  • Level 1 – His decision with no input from the team
  • Level 2 – His decision with input from the team
  • Level 3 – Consensus decision
  • Level 4 – A team member’s decision with his input
  • Level 5 – A team member’s decision with no input or influence from him

When other organizations have experimented with processes similar to Zyman’s, some employees found the five level decision making process difficult. Others perceived it as freeing because the knew in advance what was required to keep an initiative going.

Many organizations have a disproportionate number of Level 2 and Level 3 decisions. Level 5 is the least common. A critical success factor seems to be selectively choosing what to care about (not to be confused with apathy.) The evolution needs to be towards a focus on being involved personally only in decisions that are strategic in nature and require knowledge or experience unique to your role. What is likely to ensue is a new paradigm in which the executive’s willingness to let go creates unexpected, but still very positive outcomes. It may not look the way it would have with your hand print, but can still “work out.”



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