Delegation: a tool to develop the skills of others

Every single interaction with a team member is an opportunity for that person’s growth and their supervisor’s freedom.

Each time you interact with an employee if, instead of answering questions, you ask questions, then you are continually developing them.


Employee: I’m not sure how you want me to set up this report you requested.

You: What are your ideas for setting it up?

This type of interaction accomplishes three things:

  1. You get a glimpse into how that employee thinks about work.
  2. You hear his/her solutions (and one of them may be better than yours!)
  3. Since s/he was involved in the planning, you gain “buy in.”

This is called the Socratic Delegation Process and results in direct employee development (we used to call it “hands on development” but that term is problematic these days).

For the Socratic Delegation Process template, click here.

Most direct supervisors act as “answer machines” when it comes to interacting with their direct reports. The trap here is that you then become indispensable–and it is a trap.

If your department cannot function without your presence then you can kiss any potential promotion goodbye. Taking you out of the department would be too risky for the overall business or organization.

More importantly, you end up with a team that is “phoning it in” because they’re not engaged–they think that’s your job.

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