I am not a big fan of delegation. Delegation is simply getting rid of what we don’t want to do done by trying to get someone else to do it so we don’t have to do it anymore. Do you see how self-centered that sounds?
Empowerment, on the other hand, has everything to do with the benefit of the other person and the entire organization. When I empower someone, it goes far beyond simply delegating a set of tasks to someone. So beyond that what are the real key differences between delegating and empowering? I’ve listed below some fundamental truths about empowerment that sets it apart from delegation.
Empowerment requires time and training.
To empower someone is to give someone the power to do something. This means that it’s my responsibility to train the person so that they possess the skills, abilities, and insight -- “the power” to do the work. Empowerment requires TIME on my part to adequately equip the person to be successful in the new role or the new set of tasks. It takes TIME to train someone to see what we see, feel what we feel, and think the way we think about things. We’re not trying to just raise up YES-MEN or YES-WOMEN who just do what we tell them. We are trying to build a Leadership Pipeline.When it comes to empowerment, the old adage is true: We tend to overestimate what we can do in the short run and underestimate what we can do in the long run. Empowerment takes time!
Empowerment requires coaching and correction.
An athletic coach watches a player practice and then offers feedback, instruction, correction, and even admonition to ensure that player capitalizes on their potential. This is a big requirement of true empowerment. Empowerment requires some ongoing attention and an ongoing system for consistent feedback while the person practices the new role or set of tasks. I am a big fan of regular meetings with anyone who’s been empowered to do something, especially early in the new role. An athlete can never realize their true potential without a great coach. The same is true for us in leadership. Without that consistent feedback and coaching, and even correction, the person we have put in place will never become what they could have become a great coach! Make people better. Leave them better than you found them. That’s what empowerment is all about.
Empowerment requires private and public authority.
When we empower someone to do a task, we first give them private authority for the new role by letting them know that we trust them and they have the ability to have conversations and make decisions that we or others have made in the past. Then, we must give them PUBLIC authority with others in the organization so everyone else knows they have been give the power to have conversations and make decisions on our behalf or on behalf of the organization. Without this critical step, the person will never fell or possess the permission they need to lead.
Slow down. Take the time. Train. Coach. Give authority privately and publicly. Pretty soon, you have more than Yes-Men or Yes-Women. Pretty soon, you have a stable of leaders who can see what you see and think the way you think and can lead the organization to greatness alongside of you. I can give my life to that. How about you?