Friday, February 12, 2021

Lean Quote: Letting Go; Delegation to Empowerment

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.  —  Andrew Carnegie

Delegation is often taught as a time and task management tool, and it's a pretty good one of those; but it's also the first practical step toward putting empowerment to work - and, if done right, a purposeful stride down the road to servant leadership. To delegate in a way that results in empowerment, it's important to first understand the difference between the two.

Delegation is essentially about task and process - you assign a duty or action to someone else, giving responsibility - and perhaps some authority - over to them, then you hold them accountable to deliver. Empowerment is different. Empowerment means you put someone else in charge - giving both responsibility and authority over to them, but you stay engaged in a supporting role.

To empower a team the leader should delegate with these six behaviors:

1.     Offer Guidance - Give your teammates the training necessary; cast the vision and educate them on the purpose of the assignment. Understanding the context of their work will enable them to innovate and find alternate solutions to problems themselves. It's also likely you'll need to provide some course correction along the way.

2.     Provide Resources - Don't assume your team has the knowledge and access to get what they need. Your perspective, and perhaps position, may allow you to see more of the landscape; anticipate potential needs and acquire what's needed.

3.     Lay out the Timeline - Establish a deadline and milestones along the way for which the team will be accountable to you, with the understanding that ultimate accountability for success remains with you.

4.     Mitigate Barriers - Your team will encounter problems along the way. Issues with organizational processes; conflicts with other interests and internal friction are just a few of the realities your team may need you to address.

5.     Demonstrate Confidence - If you believe in your folks, they'll believe in themselves. Your team will also be keenly aware of how you feel about the value of the initiative and whether you are confident about success.

6.     Acknowledge and Support Efforts - Keep pace with your team's progress with appropriate recognition and reward along the way. Genuine and specific acknowledgement of milestone achievements will encourage more of them.

Without these six actions, any intended empowerment is really just delegation.

Business leaders may think that it's easier and faster to get things done themselves. But delegating to your team is not only essential for growth—it helps empower employees and connects them to the bigger picture.


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