How To Decide Between Delegation and Empowerment

Delegation and Empowerment are both effective tools to get work done around a dairy and business – deciding which is most appropriate is a tough challenge that we face on a regular basis. It’s a decision that constantly changes as our business and dairies grow, and one that is exceedingly impactful for the long term people development plan on our farms.

You’re in Charge – So Why Don’t You Delegate More?

Are you 100% intentional in how you spend your time at work? For many business owners and leaders, anytime is work time — and their days are typically overstuffed with meetings, appointments, firefighting, problem-solving – you name it. As a leader and influencer, you are constantly flexing roles – at any given time you may function as a leader, manager, coach, mentor, supervisor, and sometimes, a “worker bee.” The problem is, it’s very likely you have worker bees that you’re paying – and chances are they are capable and eager to do some of what you’re not letting go of.

Leaders Choose Whether They Want to Delegate or Empower

Delegation and empowerment are important and necessary tools for effective leadership. Think about when each is appropriate and how you are utilizing both within your organization and/or as an effective leader? When a leader delegates, it means that they give instructions to their employees and want them to act as they have been told. When a leader empowers, it means that they give their employees the responsibility and confidence to choose their path to do a specific job.

As you think about yourself as a leader, do you delegate tasks to your team, or do you motivate and empower them to do the job themselves? Is your team independent enough to be on their own or do they still need direction and instruction?

Often on a team where everyone is newer and/or inexperienced, delegation makes sense as it helps in improving time management, being more productive, and increases overall efficiencies. As an effective leader, this means that you will transfer the responsibilities to them according to their skills and job descriptions. You are the one providing instructions, creating to-do lists and directing assignments. This gives your team time to develop their skillset and their ability to learn. You are likely still focused at some level, on control, particularly if you are setting upfront protocols for what and how to do tasks and checking up on how the work is getting done. Keep in mind, this is important for a period of time, but not forever as it offers little opportunity for employees to grow. Hence, development is secondary.

Delegating is time consuming; I agree whole-heartedly and requires patience. Trust becomes a crucial component as an effective leader because you want to refrain from getting caught in the trap of continuously spoon-feeding instructions to your team. They will not have the ability to develop in their abilities. You won’t gain the space to expand your capacity nor capabilities. More followers are created through delegation over cultivating the growth and development of leaders within your organization.

Ask yourself, how much delegating am I doing and is this the culture I am seeking to provide or am I looking to have a balance of delegation and empowerment?

Choosing empowerment over delegation means that you are handing over the responsibility and providing the confidence for someone to do a specific job. In an organization’s culture where employees are empowered, this leads to increased engagement and a more creative and efficient workforce. By giving individuals the opportunity to grow and develop themselves, you will realize that they become more confident and responsible in themselves, and in you.

Empowering employees means that you have stopped spoon-feeding them, giving them greater authority over their work. This means that now they must take initiative, become more responsible and accountable. They become more creative because they do not have to follow orders.

As an effective leader, you are giving them decision-making and problem-solving responsibility. You focus on mentoring a person by seeding the potential for interest as well as developing required competencies, building skills, confidence, and capabilities. Development and growth of the individual and even the team are your primary focuses. Establishing a routine and running dialogue builds your relationship and your trust in them takes the place of your need to control.

Empowerment always comes from a noble desire to help make others grow, so focus more on how the employee can continuously get better. This, in turn automatically leads him/her to better execute tasks. It’s a win: win for you and them! It’s a bit of a mindset shift from only delegating.

Do keep a couple key things in mind; however, empowering can come at a cost too. Give consideration before deciding between delegation and empowerment as an effective leader. Consider that you might have a team member who will abuse their power when given authority. This requires you to be extra careful and keep a watchful eye out on and for them. Addressing this and providing feedback if and/or when it happens, is key.

There is also a chance of an increase in interpersonal conflict. The team got used to your leadership style and now, there will be a new leader. This different leadership might end up causing misunderstandings between employees. Additionally, while you want your employees to work independently, they must know how to work according to their expectations and training is required.

Empowering is complicated work with upfront time consumption, especially when you give problems or situations back to them to solve themselves. When you do this, you must be sure that they have both the desire and the ability to find a solid solution. If you are willing to invest the initial time and resources to develop and grow an individual and your team, it creates less work for you in the long run.

Delegation and empowerment are important and necessary tools for effective leadership. Striking a balance of when and how to utilize both within your organization will advance you as an effective leader.

Can You Empower Through Delegation?

Last week, Matt Heemstra reminded us that “delegation needs to be just as much about the person you are delegating to as it is about you.”

How can you make it about the person? I am a big believer in using Clifton Strength Finders as a foundation for team culture. The Clifton Strengths assessment measures the presence of talent in 34 general areas that are most directly related to the potential for success. Everyone on the team has taken the assessment and we keep a team grid posted as a reminder of what themes are dominant in members.

Everyone has a specific personal development plan that includes investing in their strengths to achieve certain goals. When a project or task comes up, I review the team grid and the various development plans before deciding on who might be good to take over the project. I can position the delegated task/project as a win-win situation.

Strength Finders isn’t magic, if it is going to be foundational to the team culture, it is key to discuss any challenges and opportunities through the Strength Finders Theme lens.  There is not an “ideal” strength profile for any specific role. People deliver the same outcomes using different behaviors. Research by the Gallup organization has found that employees who received strengths-based development were found to have up to 18% increased performance.

So back to the title, can you empower people through delegation:

  • yes, if you base the delegation on the person’s strengths
  • yes, if you allow them to figure out how they will accomplish the project (no micro-managing)
  • yes, if you communicate clearly – the purpose, the timeline and any other expectations

Delegation’s Not for Amateurs

I don’t know anybody who isn’t busy. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone, especially a person in a position of leadership, say something about how they just don’t have enough to do. And whenever people have lots to do, or feel like they’re too busy, they start to talk about how they need to delegate more. That’s a great idea, but there are a few things to keep in mind that most leaders don’t think about: