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“Delegation is not about getting rid of tasks; it’s about empowering others to help you achieve your goals.” – Laura Stack

A critical skill in leadership is learning how to delegate; leaders can’t possibly do it all themselves and will quickly burn out if they believe they have to. That said, how many of you have tried to delegate a key initiative, only to find out that the initiative isn’t moving and you have to get deeply involved…again? You asked the team to run with and own the project…why is it that certain employees take it and run, while others can’t or won’t? 

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer here. That said, a critical factor in a situation like this is employee empowerment. Employee empowerment is the way in which organizations provide their employees with a degree of autonomy and control in their day-to-day activities. You might be thinking “But I told them to run with it…they were empowered to get it done!” I can relate to this feeling of frustration, especially when under tight deadlines, but there are some key pieces to empowerment that might not be obvious at first glance.

There are 3 key components to employee empowerment that depend on how the person assesses themselves, their manager and the business:

  • Competence
    • Do they have the right skills and training to do the job?
  • Business Support:
    • Do they have the right tools and decision-making authority to do the job? 
    • Are they trusted by leadership? 
    • What happens if they make a mistake?
  • Confidence:
    • Do they believe they can do the job? 
    • Do they trust themselves to make the necessary improvements?

If you look closely at this list, you’ll see that many of these factors are tied to the employee’s mindset. They could be the most intelligent or skilled person on your team, but if they don’t believe they are, they might falter when asked to take on a larger assignment. Or, if there’s a blame-based culture in your organization, the more risk-averse people in your group might decide that staying in the background is safer, even if it means that their performance review is impacted. 

How to empower employees as a leader

If this is your situation, there are several things you can do to improve it. First, step back and look at your communication as a leader – make sure the strategic vision of what you are trying to do is well-defined and widely communicated and that the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved is clear. Then, pay attention to the key components of empowerment for each employee, both from your perspective and theirs. Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • Competence – Do they have the skills and experience for the job?
  • Business Support – What is the culture like on your team? What type of roadblocks are the employees running into?  Are you helping them remove those roadblocks?
  • Confidence – How often do they come to you for validation? What support do they need in this area?

The answers to these questions can help you fill any gaps that impact employee empowerment. This might seem time-consuming initially, but employee empowerment will pay off in the form of better outcomes, happier, more engaged employees, and better focus on key priorities in the long run.

Elite offers group leadership programs and 1:1 coaching to dive into issues just like this. Please reach out for a free consultation.  

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Jen Patel | High-Performance & Leadership Coach 

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