Don’t just delegate – Teach!

The hardest part about delegating a task is trusting that someone will do it as well as you can, and so many managers are reluctant to turn over key responsibilities. But, says Dr. Art Markman, Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, “The problem with this style of delegation is that it sets your employees up for failure. A coach wouldn’t let an athlete go into a big game without practicing extensively beforehand. Managers should share this same mentality.” (

Markman maintains that when you assign someone a task for the first time just because you’re unavailable, their chances of success are low – if you haven’t been teaching and preparing them. And the risk of damaging morale is high. “As a manager, a central part of your job is to train and develop people…take on the mindset of a trainer — instead of a manager delegating work.”

Effective training, of course, takes thought and effort, stresses Markman. Here are his recommendations:

  • To start, assess who on your team genuinely wants to move up, and identify their main areas of interest.
  • Create a development plan for them and include the skills they will need in order to reach their goals.
  • Focus on giving them assignments that require those skills, and teaching them what they need to know to succeed.
  • Structure the experience so that your employees are able to work their way up to more challenging tasks.
Do you consider yourself eager or reluctant to delegate, and why? What’s your strategy for teaching skills to those to whom you delegate?
From the Glasers