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Wearing multiple hats and trying to be “all things to all people” means time management is something with which most business owners struggle. If businesses are fortunate enough to have employees, the workload can be shared. However, if the business owner or manager doesn’t know how to effectively delegate (i.e. “let go”), overseeing the work of another can too readily become yet another task on the to-do list.

Bolded below is a very simple (but effective) delegation tool provided to me 15+ years ago at a management training seminar.


Many managers hesitate to delegate because they believe that a decision is out of their hands once they ask a staff member to do it. This is not true. There are many levels of delegation:

Level 1. Look into the problem, and give me all the facts. I will decide what to do.

Level 2. Look into the problem, and let me know the alternative actions, including the pros and cons of each, and recommend one for my approval.

Level 3. Look into the problem, and let me know what you intend to do. Delay action until I give approval

Level 4. Look into the problem, and let me know what you intend to do. Do it unless I say not to.

Level 5. Take action, and let me know what you did.

Level 6. Take action, and not further contact with me is needed.

As a supervisor, I’ve used this tool when assigning a new task or responsibility to an employee. I won’t hire (or keep) an employee lacking the skills or confidence to operate at anything less than Level 2. As our working relationship grows and the employee demonstrates sound judgement, I typically bump the delegation level to 3 to 5, depending on project complexity or sensitivity.


Similarly, I’ve pointed to this Level of Delegation tool and stated to my supervisor, “I’m comfortable operating at a Level 4 or 5 on this project. Does that work for you, or do you have a different level of delegation in mind?” Over the years, I’ve learned I don’t do well with supervisors or jobs where only Level 1 is desired. At the same time, I feel disconnected with supervisors who always prefer Level 6.


Finding that sweet spot for both parties by clarifying expectations at the onset of an assignment saves time, reduces stress, and generally leads to greater satisfaction for both the employer and the employee.


To help discover where your delegation level sweet spot is, below are some questions or things for consideration:

  1. Is the appropriate delegation level being assigned for the position?
  2. What level of delegation is being entrusted to the person in that position?
  3. If the levels of delegation differ between 1 & 2 above, recognize that somebody is unhappy.
    1. If an employer believes the position should be operating at a Level 4, but the employee routinely operates at a Level 1 or 2, the employee probably knows (at least on a subconscious level) he “isn’t measuring up” and the employer is probably demonstrating signs of frustration.
    2. On the flip side, if an employee often goes “above and beyond” and readily makes recommendations or suggestions or “jumps the gun” in taking action before the supervisor even has time to blink, don’t be surprised if the employee is looking for another job or assignment to avoid feeling micromanaged at Level 1.


In summary, when it comes to levels of delegation, the goal is alignment between the position and the person in that position, operating at a mutually agreed-upon level between the supervisor and the employee.

If you need assistance bringing this management alignment into your workplace, the SBDC is ready to help. Contact us today at or 360-778-1762 to schedule an appointment with a Certified Business Advisor.

Authored by: Sherri Daymon

Post date: 201803

You started 2018 strong.

So strong, in fact, that you’re reading this blog while enjoying a freshly-made, home-grown salad for lunch (hold the dressing) before jogging on your treadmill and after getting a full nine hours of sleep the night before, into which you were gently cocooned by thinking about the full quarter of your paycheck you just stashed away into savings.

And what if I told you that doing all of those things today, and only today, would pay off for the rest of the year?

If it sounds too good to be true…

That’s because it is.

Only 8% of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, and a day—or even several weeks—of improvement will have little long-lasting effects.

But there are several things you can do for your business today that will result in a more rewarding year, even if you only do them once.

  1.  Perform a SWOT analysis.

For those who may not be aware, a SWOT analysis is a simple but valuable framework for evaluating your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. (For the glass-half-full people among us, ‘weaknesses’ may be replaced with ‘challenges’. But SCOT doesn’t have quite the same visual impact as SWOT.)

fly swat

Evaluating your business’s internal strengths and weaknesses will help clarify what sets you apart from the competition and ensure you don’t leave an opening for your competitors. Examining external opportunities keeps the focus on the future and highlights areas in which to seize competitive advantage, while analyzing external threats will help you better defend against challengers.

MindTools offers an excellent, free template to help you conduct your own SWOT analysis, in addition to providing helpful prompts for flushing out each category.


2. Review your customers' wants and needs.

“Customers are like teeth. Ignore them and they’ll go away”- Jerry Flanagan, State Farm Agent.  

Understanding your customers’ wants and needs is essential, lest you find your business keeping company with the last Blockbuster. 

blockbuster video stores

The easiest way to do this, of course, is to simply ask the source. Kissmetrics outlines five excellent methods for getting feedback from your customers, while HubSpot offers a helpful list of questions from which to choose.

And while there are certainly good reasons for expanding your market share, keep in mind that finding ways to sell more to the customers you already have is just as important—if not more so—than expanding your existing customer base.

3. Conduct a survey of market trends.

Remember these things?

fanny pack

Of course you don’t! Because you would never have been caught wearing one. You don’t have a small stash of them in the garage somewhere. And you definitely don’t sometimes think “a fanny pack would be really handy right now.”

But just in case—just to be clear—fanny packs represent a fad: a short-term craze that may result in future blackmail opportunities.

Trends, unlike fads, have the potential to be long-term influencers of the market.

Not to pick on Blockbuster again (it’s just so easy!), but the company also serves as an excellent example of what might befall a business that doesn’t pay attention to market trends.

Trends can come in many forms, including the following:

  • Changing technology, like the transition to online video streaming.
  • Changing customer needs, like the expectation of fast and free shipping.
  • Changing demographics, like the Baby Boomer generation being overtaken in numbers by Millennials.
  • Economical changes, like an increase in interest rates.

Keeping an eye on market trends will help your business embrace change instead of simply reacting to it, or may even aid you in identifying the next big thing in time to capitalize on it.

4. Take an inventory of your internal inspiration.

No amount of advice can serve as a substitute for fueling your personal passion.

If you’ve found yourself just going through the motions lately, chances are good that your mood is reflected in your business.

One of our fellow business advisors, Sherri Daymon, offers words of wisdom in a recent blog post: “Notwithstanding the year we are born or the year we die, we each have 525,600 minutes per year. Yet those minutes can bleed into ‘wasted’ hours, days, weeks, and even months if we aren’t mindful of how our time is being spent. Or rather, how our time is being invested.”

Take the time to invest in an internal assessment. Don Clifton’s StrengthsFinder can help guide you, if you’re not sure where to start.

Ask yourself what fuels you, what drives you to flourish—and from that, develop a vision for success.

In addition to renewing your own source of energy, when it comes to your business, a vision for success—no  matter how far-fetched it may seem—has the power to clarify your company’s purpose and inspire your entire organization.

So if you find that you’re part of the 92% of the population who has already written off that optimistic year-long gym membership as a sunk cost, consider focusing your efforts on the four steps above.

You may have already resolved to resolve better next year, but accomplishing the above steps—even if you only do them once—can still set you on the path to a more fulfilling year.


Authored by: CJ Seitz


Post date: 201803