Empowerment Through Delegation

Empowering team members is really the process of delegating decision making authority and responsibility to them. In a business environment of constant change, the need to make decisions quickly and effectively is critical to a leader’s success.

An organization that must wait for the leader to make every decision will miss most market opportunities and will quickly fall behind the competition. The more you are able to empower team members with decision-making authority and responsibility, the quicker and more nimble the organization will be in solving problems and exploiting opportunities.

Unfortunately, most leaders do not understand how to effectively empower team members to make decisions. The tendency is to see empowerment as either a black or white issue – either you empower your people or you don’t. Actually, empowerment is a process with varying degrees of authority and responsibility.

The amount of empowerment you give to someone will vary depending on the specific decision to be made, the talents of the person, and his or her ability to make effective decisions. There are four distinct levels of delegation and empowerment:

  1. Command- This is essentially no empowerment. The leader makes the decision alone and informs team members about the decision.
  2. Consultation- At this level the leader asks for input, ideas, and opinions from team members before making a decision.
  3. Collaboration- The leader acts more like a member of the team at this level, attempting to reach a consensus that everyone will agree to.
  4. Consignment- To consign means to entrust someone with something of value. Consignment is full empowerment, as the leader delegates or entrusts the decision making to team members. There are three levels of consignment:
  • Make the decision and report immediately.
  • Make the decision and report at regular intervals.
  • Make the decision and report when the task or job is finished.

 The key to successful empowerment is to choose the appropriate level for each type of decision that needs to be made and for each team member. Remember, however, that there are certain decisions that the leader will always be required to make. Most other decisions should be delegated as soon as possible.

Leadership Management Institute
Reprinted with permission
Strategic Essentials is a Managing Partner for Leadership Management International.
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