When leaders empower their employees those employees are able to take on greater responsibility and authority. In order to do so, employees must be given the resources to make this happen. Unfortunately, some employees often feel as though they do not have the support or resources to become empowered. Employees may be unclear as to what empowerment actually means in tangible terms.
The act of empowering includes:
- Increasing employee accountabilities
- Supporting employees to make decisions
- Allowing employees to be self-directed
Effective delegation is the mechanism by which leaders are able to empower their employees.
Principles of Effective Delegation
Delegation is about giving employees the accountability to make the right decisions, to change the process and to be the owner of the task or project.
Effective delegation means:
- Identifying what tasks, activities or projects to delegate
- Communicating thoroughly the expectations and parameters
- Ensuring that all resources are available
- Building trust by being a facilitative manager
- Clearing obstacles for employees to ensure success
Delegation is most successful when there is a win-win outcome – employees build new skills or achieve new results by taking on greater accountability.
Objections to Delegating & Generational Concerns
Since delegation creates employee empowerment, why don’t more leaders do it? Many objections are based on the professional fears that delegating could have a negative impact on operational results or leaders’ careers. For example, some leaders fear: that they won’t be seen as competent since others are doing the work; that they will be replaced; and, that if something goes wrong, it will impact their reputation. These fears are generally unfounded and can be managed through effective delegation. The benefits of effectively delegating far outweigh the risks.
Baby Boomers may struggle with relinquishing control and delegating because of their own historical work experiences. They are hesitant to delegate because they worry about their own reputations. Given the highly competitive work environment for Baby Boomers, a mistake in delegation could mean losing a promotion or not getting assigned to the next project. Also, delegation may not feel comfortable, because losing control of the details may be perceived as a decrease in their “work value.”
For Baby Boomer leaders, it is important to realize that delegation allows them to take on even greater responsibilities that focus on their strengths and their desires to add value to the organization.
Gen Xers may be more inclined to delegate, especially tasks or projects that they feel do not add value to their professional portfolio or skills repertoire. They generally recognize that the more employees can do, the greater likelihood of achieving team results. However, because Gen Xers dislike being micromanaged themselves, they may not provide sufficient background information or detailed instructions when handing over responsibilities.
To be effective delegators, Gen Xers need to focus on providing the required tools for employees to succeed and to focus on providing the right level of coaching.
Gen Ys have fewer challenges with delegating. They are accustomed to a world of hyper collaboration, where team members share responsibilities. However, as leaders, Gen Ys may avoid delegating tasks or responsibilities if they know the employee won’t be thrilled with the added responsibility, since they often have strong personal relationships with employees. Their biggest challenge may be that many Gen Ys don’t understand the hierarchical nature of most organizations and therefore do not understand why they cannot delegate ‘up’ to more senior people.
Gen Ys are effective delegators if they leverage the trust they have built with their teams by openly sharing how increased responsibilities benefits employees, the team and the organization.