The Difference Between Delegating and Empowering

Posted on May 16, 2014.

So many managers pride themselves on being great delegators.  They think because they’re handing off all the lousy work they don’t want to do, they’re empowering their employees. Wrong! Empowerment, as the word implies, makes people feel they have some power over their work and their destiny.

Overlooking this essential difference can have grave consequences.  Lack of feeling empowered is often cited as one of the top 5 reasons people quit their jobs.  This is especially true of your most talented employees.  Let’s face it, people that just show up and do the bare minimum don’t care about too much other than their paycheck. So how can you tell if you only delegate and not empower? Ask yourself the following questions:

·      Do you re-do someone else’s work product more than 50% of the time?

·      Do you have meetings to solicit feedback, but spend most of the time talking?

·      Do you find it unbearable when someone makes a mistake?

·      Do you find yourself being defensive when your ideas are challenged?

·      Do you feel like your ideas and suggestions are almost always better than anyone else’s?

·      Do you hand off tasks you just don’t like to do that have little importance in the success of your team?

·      Do you feel like your way is always better?

·      Do you find yourself in the weeds almost every day?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are more than likely not empowering your employees.  To truly empower someone you need to accept the following:

·      You’re not always right.

·      Other people have great ideas, just a different way of approaching the problem.

·      People make mistakes and then learn from them, including you.

·      You trust that people will step up and do the best they can, even if it’s different.

·      Collaborative decision-making almost always yields a better outcome than autocratic decision-making.

·      You’re a manager, overseeing the work of others, not doing their job.

As is often said, and I’ve often said, people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. Lack of empowerment leads to feeling you can’t be successful. Once that happens you start looking elsewhere.

Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at what you do day in and day out.  Are you truly empowering your staff or just delegating? 

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