Can you teach a manager to delegate?


@thehrstore recently tweeted the following question:

So what can done to make it easier for managers who find it tough to delegate? Any suggestions?

This is an interesting question.  My observation is that some people find delegation easy and for others it’s impossible.  And there’s a whole group of people in between who, with the appropriate support and advice, can become great delegators.

The first part of my answer would be to look at the recruitment process.  How are delegation skills tested in the assessment process?  The kind of qualities you are looking for are:

  1. The ability to see the bigger picture
  2. Good time management skills
  3. Focusses on outcomes as opposed to method
  4. Adopts a supportive and developmental approach to others.

When recruiting for a 1st level manager with no prior experience, you won’t be able to fully assess their ability to delegate.  Instead you’ll be looking for their potential.  In essence, you want to avoid recruiting the manager who believes “It’s Quicker If I Do Everything Myself”.   Unfortunately, some managers are appointed despite having this approach, as their techical expertise is valued more than their ability to manage.

The second part of my answer deals with the development of a manager once they are in post.   Any areas of development highlighted during the interview process should be factored into the new manager’s development programme.  And with regular supervision, 1:1 support, and informal intellegence, any other issues that arise within the first six months – particularly around  their management style and ability to delegate should be picked up.  

I always advocate a bespoke approach to a manager’s development.  You need to consider what their key learning needs are and their preferred learning style before investing in any training and development activity.  Motivation, level of committment and amount of time the manager has to invest in their development should also be considered.  One of the most effective and cost effective methods of developing a skill like delegation is through coaching.  I’m also a big advocate of thinking creatively about development

So, you can teach a manager to delegate, but only if you’ve appointed someone who has the ability to demonstrate this skill.   If it’s all about the recruitment process, I’d be interested to hear about any other qualities you believe contribute to good delegation skills.  Also, keen to hear bout any experiences of working with managers to improve their ability to delegate.