The profile of a 'Complete' Manager
The Complete Manager 8 of 14: Empowerment
We're continuing our examination of the profile of a 'complete' manager - one who daily achieves Predictable Success® for herself, her team, and the organization she works for.
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the profile of a complete manager. We have seen that the foundation of a complete manager lies in their ability to be enhance their productivity. More specifically in the areas of; time management, priority management, crisis management and delegation.
A few weeks ago we started to look at the second group of key skills; Developing Others. Since then we have seen that the Complete Manager provides consistent, on-going performance assessment and ensures their team receives appropriate mentoring and coaching.
(If you want to follow along the connections between the 14 characteristics, you can download a copy of the Complete Manager Brain Map - a pdf version of the graphic at top right).
You can track the series using this progress bar:
"If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no
denying he would have great power here. But I would be the first to rise and
assure him that he had no authority whatsoever."
- GK Chesterton
We've already talked about delegation. But delegation of responsibility without also delegating the necessary power or authority is fruitless.
If you want real accountability and a sense of ownership in your team, then each team member (and the team as a whole) must be genuinely empowered to make decisions. To use an over-worked word, there must be a culture of empowerment within the organization, within your team, and within each individual team member.
What, precisely, is the difference between delegation and empowerment? Here are the five main contrasts between them:
1. Delegation is specific to a task or project. Empowerment extends to functions.
Let's say your on the way to a business meeting in Toledo. (Why Toledo? We may never know.) The doors have closed and your plane is about to start taxi-ing when your cellphone rings. It's your assistant, Geoff who says he has a distraught customer on the phone, demanding her money back because the product she bought from your company broke after two days of use.
You explain to Geoff that you have an irritated steward staring at you and making 'close the clam-shell' gestures, so you can't take the call right now. You tell Geoff that you're delegating the task of dealing with the irate customer to him, give him some guidelines about the resolution outcomes that you would be happy with, and tell him that you look forward to hearing how it was resolved when you land.
When you land, like every other businessperson, you race to be the first to flip open your cellphone, and you discover that Geoff (as he has done once or twice before) has handled the situation promptly, courteously and with an outcome that satisfies you, satisfied the customer and benefited the company as a whole.
As a Complete Manager, instead of stopping at mere delegation, upon your return from Toledo you go talk to Geoff, saying: "You did a great job dealing with that customer. That's a couple of times now you've shown skill in that area. From now on, just go ahead and handle any incoming customer complaints in the future. They don't have to come through me. I'm only interested in hearing how the complaint is resolved."
In this (simplified) example, Geoff has moved from having specific tasks (individual calls) delegated to him, to being empowered to deal with each of those types of calls as they come in.
2. Delegation is reactive, empowerment is proactive.
Delegation is in reaction to a specific event: in the example above, the delegation was a reaction to the customer's complaining 'phone call. You might delegate the setting of next year's price list, the preparation of a report you've been asked to draw up, getting your spouse's birthday present, or clearing out your spam folder. Either way, it's a reaction to an existing need.
Empowerment is proactive: Geoff can now "just go ahead and handle any incoming customer complaints in the future." Empowering a team member to review all prices every six months, or to review your diary for upcoming events like board meetings (or birthdays, depending on your boundaries) and making any necessary preparations (like reports, or presents, your call) means avoiding the retrospective need to delegate specific tasks or activities one at a time.
3. Delegation is specific and task based, empowerment is flexible and goal based.
When tasks are delegated, it's usually with strict instructions as to what the result should look like: The report should be in a three-ring binder with this cover and using this font and so and so. My spouse likes chocolates and roses but not jewelry or orchids. Geoff was given clear instructions as to what the resolution outcomes should be like.
Empowerment, on the other hand, means that you have come to trust the empowered person (or team) to solve the issues / complete the tasks in their way. Your team has learned how the reports should look, and maybe even improve on your old clip art graphics. Your assistant surprises you with a gift for your spouse that you would never have thought of, but which is perfect (and yes, I know the dangerous waters we're in here with this example), Geoff solves customer complaints in creative, cost-effective ways that are better than the simple refunds and discount pricing you were using previously.
With delegation, one thing gets done as if you had done it. With empowerment, the whole function is executed better than you could have. Are you up for that?
4. Delegation is a management skill, empowerment is a leadership skill.
Delegation is most often used to deal with the technical, day-to-day tasks of management. Delegation is necessary - in fact vital - to "get the job done." There is a place and a time when exactly what you need is that something is done 'as if you had done it'.
If you want to develop a team that's good at performing the technical aspects of their (and your) job then delegation is an important and effective tool to get there.
If you're also looking to build one or more leaders with a sense of ownership and responsibility for their individual and collective work, then you need to empower them, not just delegate to them.
Merely delegating responsibility is not enough to develop leaders. Unless you give your team members the authority and power to proactively create solutions and solve problems, they will never make the jump from management to leadership.
5. Building a culture of empowerment - moving from anecdote to process.
The long term success of empowerment comes from baking it into the culture of your team - or better still, the whole organization. Truly predictably successful organizations ore those in which empowerment flows through every aspect of their daily activities: front line employees, team leaders and supervisors, managers and senior management included.
This obviously doesn't happen overnight, but instead comes from a prolonged, sometimes painful commitment to moving from 'just' delegation to true empowerment. Start small, by giving responsibility over areas that you feel comfortable having your team members handle. Don't 'bet the ranch' up front.
Allow mistakes to happen, and don't shut down when they do. Reach out - explain why and where you think an act of empowerment went wrong. Show how to do it better next time. Gradually, as the team begins to experience small successes, increase the responsibility and authority they have. Push yourself out of your comfort zone (I guarantee you'll be surprised).
Eventually you will have a culture of empowerment ingrained in your team. They will feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their work which will provide a constant flow of creative solutions and generate high quality decisions.
How are you doing?
Use the five questions below to see how well you are doing in giving responsibility, power and authority to your team.
Members: click here
to download a workbook containing these and other questions covering all 14 Complete Manager key skills
If two or more answers are in the 'Never' or 'Sometimes' columns, consider getting help. If three or more answers are in the 'Never' or 'Sometimes' columns, don't consider not getting help!
Next up: In the next article, we'll move to hiring.
Do You Want to Be a Complete Manager?
Do You Want Your Team to Be Complete Managers?
Then pre-register for our upcoming Complete Manager Program - a distance learning program based on all 14 'Complete Manager' characteristics.
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