I deal with a lot of leaders that confuse delegation with empowerment. I am often told, "I don't micro manage, I empower my employees." However, when we start digging into specific situations, we often uncover the difference between delegation and empowerment. It is really not that difficult to ascertain the difference. Delegation is simply getting someone else to perform a specific task for you.
"Tom, can you move these for pallets for me to make some room for a new shipment coming in tomorrow?"
Empowerment sets a little higher expectation that encourages the employee to use their own creativity and innovation.
"Tom, our warehouse is getting pretty full and we have a new shipment coming in. Can you figure a way to solve this problem for me?"
In other words, just telling an employee what to do is not empowerment because it doesn't allow him to use his own creativity. In fact, many times delegation can be construed as micro managing simply because the employee feels offended that he is given directions that are too specific. So.... If you even have the slightest thought that your employees may consider you a micro manager, try these tips and see if your empowerment skills improve.
1. Analyze your leadership model. Do you hold things close to the vest? Are you reluctant to share information? Are you afraid of giving up control? Do you trust and respect your employees? If you answered yes to any of these questions you have a challenge on your hands. Your answers may be very telling with regard to your skills as a leader. Remember, a leader is only as good as the people they surround themselves with.
2. Create a skills assessment inventory for every key employee. Supplement that exercise by creating a training and development matrix to improve the overall competency of the organization. Include yourself in the assessment. Communicate the purpose in a positive fashion to the employees.
3. Work on your peronal coaching skills recognizing your responsibility as a leader to develop others.
4. Consider doing a 360 review that includes you as a leader or create an anonymous survey for employees to rate the entire management team, including you, and the company culture itself.
5. Utilize your skills assessment to make sure you have the right people in the right seats and identify future potential leadership.
6. Stop answering questions and start asking them. When an employee asks you what they should do, ask them what they think you should do.
7. Search for projects, issues or challenges that you would normally tackle and create a project team or empower and individual to solve the problem. Do this even of you think you have the answer.
8. Let your employees fail. The hardest thing to do is watch an employee make a mistake. But, unless the mistake is life threatening or is going to cost the company thousands of dollars, it is a better learning process if the employee learns form his own mistake.
9. Provide more than just skill training and product training. Create an employee development program for those employees that show potential for future stardom. This development program must be based on empowering these employees to make tough decisions. Intern programs are also effective as a platform for development.
10. Results happen in various ways. Remember, you may have a specific way of doing things but it may not be the only way. As long as the employee is getting the results expected, give them praise. Your way may not be the best or only way.