Delegation versus empowerment

By yashodhan_kanade on Sat, 31 August 2013 at 18:02 IST
Delegation versus empowerment


Every person working in an organization aspires to grow in career and dreams to be at the top of the
ladder one day.

To promote somebody to the higher step, two questions need to be answered –

  • 1. Has the person prepared himself to take charge of the higher position?
  • 2. If he is promoted, who would take his position?

This demands that in order to move ahead, every manager should groom his successor, who can take his position.

Two management techniques that need to be mastered and used by a manager, for organization to be dynamic and growth oriented are – Delegation of work and empowerment to employees.

These two terms are not synonymous but are interrelated.

The broad difference
The broad difference between delegation and empowerment is that - The delegation occurs when a manager assigns some of his duties and responsibilities to his subordinates, while the overall responsibility lies with the manager.

On the other hand, empowerment involves giving power or authority to someone else to manage work independently and be responsible for success or failure.

Because of lack of understanding between delegation and empowerment, when there is a need to delegate work, subordinates are empowered and vice versa. This results in failure and blaming subordinates.

Such a situation arises, when:

  • 1. An incompetent subordinate is promoted, either by default or due the existing circumstances, in place of a person who has resigned.
  • 2. A person working well in his certain capacity is promoted under the pretext of giving preference to existing employees, expecting that he would cope with the new designation, but he still continues to work as per his earlier designation.
  • 3. A person working in junior capacity in one organization joins other organization at higher designation and finds difficult to cope

Many a times, people who are authorized to take decision, avoid taking decisions due to lack of courage or fear of failing. Under such circumstances empowerment fails.

It is therefore necessary to understand a subtle difference between these two terms, to know when and how to delegate or empower.

Grooming is a two way process

An organization is defined as a group of people and facilities with an arrangement of responsibilities, authorities and relationships.

Unless responsibilities and authorities of employees are clearly defined, organization cannot work successfully. A person with only responsibility cannot work without authority and vice versa.

Authorities are given to take timely decisions, in the interest of organization.

No manager can work single handed in an organization. He has to get assistance from others. He must be willing to handover that part of his work to others, where his expertise is not required. He must have courage to trust others and have ability to extract best out of them.

At the same time, for delegation or empowerment, other employees must be competent to do work and willing to accept new assignment as an opportunity to climb the organizational ladder.

What is delegation?
Delegation begins with an intention to groom subordinates to handle respective jobs and responsibilities. Here, though a subordinate is doing work, the entire responsibility lies with boss.

By delegating, the boss relieves some of the burden from his shoulders, allowing him to focus on his most important duties in which he is specialized. Delegation can also provide subordinates a feeling of being groomed for higher assignments.

To delegate something to someone is to only give them enough freedom to act on your behalf. They have to be constantly in touch with the person who delegated the task to them. There may not be much room for improvisation, if the need arises. Thus the staff might not be able to use his/her initiative and come up with enterprising solutions.

When the nature of the job is such that leader has to be in effective control and is responsible for any chain of events that happen, delegation is the solution (project manager).

Good delegation saves your time, develops your people, grooms a successor and motivates him.

Poor delegation will cause you frustration. It demotivates and confuses the other person and fails to achieve the task or purpose. Delegation is a management skill that is worth improving.

Delegation is very helpful aid for succession planning, personal development and seeking and encouraging promotion. Delegation enables us to gain experience to take on higher responsibilities.

For effective delegation, the task to be delegated should be - Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time bound, Ethical and Recorded - “SMARTER”

What is empowerment?
Employee empowerment involves the transfer of the decision making authority to employees, to give them a sense of ownership in their work. Employee empowerment is a powerful motivational tool that brings out the best out of employee.

Three critical aspects to empowerment are -

  • 1. We must grant them authority, to take important decisions
  • 2. We must give them proper resources to carry out their work, and
  • 3. We must hold them accountable to organizational values and principles.

We tell them the “what” but the “how” is left up to them. They have to have enough of all three things to truly have the freedom to fail on their own efforts and learn.

Empowerment is a much more effective method of leading people, as the people you are leading have an opportunity to discover their strengths and weaknesses. It also allows you to assess the ability of the people you are leading and see how you could maximize their individual potential.

As Jack Hyles puts it – “Don’t use your people to build a great work, use your work to build great people.

There are some leaders who empower and wash their hands so to speak of their responsibilities. This is not really empowerment rather it is pushing of responsibility. It is important that as a leader you remain committed to your roles and responsibilities. Ultimately you have to have the desire to bring the best out of your people.

Delegation versus empowerment

  • Delegation largely develops followers, while empowerment develops leaders.
  • Delegation is more work for you in the long run, while empowerment is less work for you in the long run.
  • Delegation keeps you in the centre of leadership activity, while empowerment places someone else at the centre of leadership activity.
  • Delegation ensures that you are your own leadership legacy-for good or for bad, while empowerment ensures that more leaders are your leadership legacy-which is almost always good.
  • Delegation requires your dependency to achieve results; empowerment ensures that the set targets will be achieved without your involvement.

Transition from delegation to empowerment
Many a times, a good supervisor is promoted as a manager. In spite of giving authorities and responsibilities and resources to carry out his work effectively, he often fails to work effectively and efficiently, because he has not undergone a formal logical step-wise delegation program that makes him eligible for empowerment.

From delegation to empowerment in ten successive steps asking subordinate -

  • 1. To do exactly what has been told:
    Here there is no freedom for work. One has to follow only instructions.
  • Look into this and tell me the situation. I will decide.
    This is asking subordinate for investigation and analysis but no recommendation is sought.
  • 3. Look into this and tell me the situation, we will decide.

    This has a subtle improvement over step 2. This level encourages and enables the analysis and
    decision to be shared, which can be very helpful in coaching and development of subordinate.
  • 4. Tell me the situation and what help you need from me in assessing and handling it. Then we will
  • 5. Give me your analysis of the situation with reasons, options and pros and cons and
    recommendation. I will tell you whether you can go ahead
  • 6. Decide and let me know your decision and wait for my go ahead before proceeding
  • 7. Decide and let me know your decision, then go ahead unless I say no to you
  • 8. Decide and take action and let me know what you did and what happened
  • 9. Decide and take action, you need not check back with me
  • 10. Decide where action needs to be taken and manage the situation accordingly. It’s your area of
    responsibility now.

The process started with delegation and ended with empowerment.

It is necessary for the managers should master these techniques and be a successful leader, at the same time climb the organizational ladder to fulfill his aspiration.

Yashodhan Kanade
Lean manufacturing consultant
E mail – [email protected]
Mobile - 9822470912

Yashodhan Kanade is a Lean Manufacturing consultant. (M) +919822470912