So what is empowerment about and what are the benefits?  Empowerment is quite simply a highly practical and productive way of getting the best form yourself and your staff.  It involves not simply the delegation of tasks but decision making and full responsibility to.

Empowerment is one of the high leverage activities that a manager should engage in.  Using Pareto’s 80:20 rule, empowerment is one of the 20% tasks that gives you 80% of the results you seek.

Why is this?  Quite simply it is because it encourages staff to use their initiative.  For example, there are a number of levels of initiative that a manager can encourage their staff to demonstrate.  From the lowest to the highest they are:

  1. Wait until told.
  2. Ask what to do.
  3. Recommend and then take action
  4. Act, and advise immediately.
  5. Act and advise routinely.

If a manager behaves in a ‘do what you are told’ way towards their staff, they simply encourage their staff to come to them with all their issues.  A manager who engages in this type of behaviour will have little time to work on their important tasks as they will spend most of their time resolving staff related issues.

However a manager who encourages their staff to demonstrate high levels of initiative (ie levels 4 and 5 above), is effectively saying to their staff, ‘I trust you, you are responsible go and sort it!’.  This therefore leaves the manager more time to concentrate on their important, high impact tasks

However, empowerment often worries managers because they are afraid of losing control.  Losing control of their staff, of budgets, customer service, ideas or standards.  The idea of empowerment worries them because it seems to entail the loss of all that carefully planned control.  However, empowerment is not about losing control – it is about giving it away.

There’s a big difference between losing control and giving it up.  Giving up control, in other words empowerment, requires careful preparation and planning, it is not simply a case of giving someone a series of tasks and letting them get on with it.  We will consider preparing for empowerment in the next article.

So, empowerment is not about loss of control   In fact it’s about gain, gain of time, impact, commitment, and ideas.  Most of all it is about gaining access to the skills, knowledge and initiative of your staff.  Why wouldn’t you want to empower them?