A Little-Known Secret to Be a Much More Effective Leader

Content was originally published on Inc.com on September 13, 2017. 

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Earlier today I was leading a web cam round table with a dozen of our top one-on-one business coaching clients. The subject was leadership. During a portion of this round table the participants were sharing how they were personally using a simple delegation technique we had taught them called the “Capability Spectrum”.

Imagine a scale from 1 to 10 representing how capable a staff member is with respect to performing a specific work responsibility. A low score of 1-3 means they have very little or experience with this function, while a high score at the other end of the spectrum means that they are very capable in performing that responsibility and have deep experience there. The next time before you delegate a responsibility to a team member, pause for 30 seconds and ask yourself:

“Where does this staff member fall 1-10 on the Capability Spectrum with respect to this specific work function?”

Once you get clear on this the implications are clear.

You manage a 1-2 by having them shadow you or someone else to watch how the function is done. You let them role play or do a very slow practice round with a mentor there to give them immediate support.

If they are a 3-4, you might let them perform the function for real with you or someone else who is more capable there to give coaching.

While if they are a 7-8, you like will let them own the function, with you or their manager giving them coaching on the fine points here and there.

The key is to recognize that if you hand off to a 1-3, with no close supervision, from your staff member’s perspective you are really abdicating or “dumping” the task on them. And if you manage a person who is an 8 or 9 on the Capability Spectrum on a task closely, they will likely feel disrespected and micromanaged.

By pausing for 30 seconds to see where you team member is on the spectrum, you’ll more effectively be able to adjust your management of them for the best result and relationship with that team member. This is a key part of setting your team up for success.

One of our one-on-one business coaching clients on that round table who runs a financial services industry shared that it’s easy for him to spot when a team member is at either end of the spectrum with respect to a job function. He struggles with identifying where those people in the middle portion of the spectrum are. He shared, “If I don’t know clearly where they are, I just ask them, ‘How confident do you feel about handling and performing this job function for the company from a 1-10?'” What a great idea–to just ask them where they see themselves.

The bottom line is that we need to adjust our management style to take into account this key variable – how capable is our staff member in this job function?

Let this simple insight guide how you tailor your management of your team to specific team members and contexts.

P.S. Ready to take your leadership skills and your business to the next level? Let our team mentor and guide you with a one-on-one business coaching session. If you’re serious about exploring a potential fit to work together, do yourself (and your business) a favor and schedule your complimentary one-on-one business coaching session with Maui Mastermind today.


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Business David is a Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestselling author of 11 business and financial books. A syndicated columnist for Inc.com and HuffingtonPost.com, David’s articles have appeared in over 6,500 publications. As the founder and CEO of Maui Mastermind®, David has worked with 100,000+ business coaching clients and community members to buy, build, and sell over $5 billion of businesses.