By Sharon A. Chirban, PhD
In HBR this week, an article was published on the importance of teaching vs. delegating. Mentoring the next generation of employees, managers, scientists, psychologists, and medical professionals is the way to ensure that a reliable skill set gets developed. Busy professionals and managers often frenetically distribute tasks to subordinates under the assumption that delegating will make them more efficient. Delegating a task without adequate supervision sets up a vicious cycle of sub-par performance, leading the manager, owner, or employer to resume the overburdened task list due to the perception “it’s easier if I just do it myself.”
Teaching takes a plan. A mentoring process, is just that, a process. Without a template with accurate time frames for acquiring new skills, employees or subordinates feel inadequate and manager/employers feel frustrated. Step back and evaluate your plan for how you assess the specific tasks you delegate and how well prepared your staff is to handle the content of the task. Build scaffolding in the mentoring process. Sometimes, even mentoring can be delegated. In my own practice, with several young and bright clinicians who are acquiring a new and specialized skill set, I will recruit the expertise of colleagues to be part of the mentoring process. Spending unstructured time, where the opportunity emerges to talk casually about the learning process can be set aside in a light atmosphere. Mentoring doesn’t always have to be super serious with an outlined agenda and time frame. The best learning, as we’ve learned in the alternative education initiatives, is when individuals don’t realize they are learning, but instead are stimulated, just the right amount.