Delegation Vs. Empowerment

by | Nov 21, 2020 | Life Lessons & Leadership | 1 comment

Delegation vs empowerment… at home and at the office.
Being a leader isn’t the same as being a manager.
Managing people isn’t the same as being a leader.
Being a leader means someone’s following you, regardless of your job title.
True leaders create a following, but not because they’re in charge.
And, having “followers” has nothing to do with leading, but they can work hand in hand.
Okay, so to the main topic, delegations vs. empowerment.
I had a great conversation the other day with a friend of mine who’s in a leadership position in the coast guard. Afterwards, I thought through the topic much further and wrote down my key points to come back to. Ultimately, it’s this, leaders empower others while managers delegate tasks.
As a parent, if you’re merely TELLING your kids what to do, you’re delegating tasks. “Take out the garbage!” “Clean your room!” “Pick up the living room!” “Do the dishes!” “Go get me a beer!” The list goes on and on. It’s task-oriented. I don’t want to do this and, since I’m in charge of you, I get to tell you to do it.
This is the lowest level of ‘leadership’ as it’s really more about being a task manager. You get to decide what needs to be done and you assign it to someone who you think should do it. Yay! And just like that, you’re a leader!
No, not really.
Busy work doesn’t make people better, it merely passes time. I’ve had many ‘teachers’ in the past give busy work that has no real purpose other than to get through a class without having to think.
Internships often abuse this and ‘hire’ interns to simply be ‘gophers’. Gopher is also broken down as ‘Go For’, meaning Go for coffee, or go for bagels, or go for this or go for that.
Being a gopher often leads to resentment although the ‘manger’ of said gopher often feels like they’re doing a great job of leading.
Not the case.
Formal authority, or formal power, or legitimate power, or positional power is when someone has authority over you and can tell you what to do. A boss. A parent. A teacher. A fire chief. A CEO. A captain.
If you’re directed to do something from someone with formal authority, refusal to do so can result in termination of your job. If it’s a parent, you risk whatever means of punishment the parent sees fit (grounding, spanking, etc.).
Leadership is earned.
Delegating does not improve one’s leadership skills nor does it garner respect from the person being told what to do… regardless of how nice that person is being.
Delegation creates a “what do I do next?” mentality and a “no one told me what to do so I didn’t do anything” kind of a mindset.
This is very limiting.
Empowerment is a transfer of power from one person to another. Often, someone with some type of legitimate power will look to enable another person by getting them to think, act & fail on their own in order to grow.
As a parent, this is critical if you want successful kids in the long run.
As a boss, this is critical if you want your employees to grow within the organization or outside of the organization later on.
It even works with friends or co-workers as the aim is to literally make someone else better or more confident or less dependent on others in some way.
Here’s the tough part though, especially for parents.
By the nature of what it is, when you empower someone, their dependence on you goes down. When they depend on you less and less, your power over them goes down. The more they ‘get’ on their own, the greater their independence and the more they can do for themselves.
As a parent, this is both great and awful. It’s great because they become the best version of themselves and they’re not afraid of what life throws at them. At the same time, it’s awful because the person you’ve spent such a long time ‘training’ no longer needs you the way they once did.
A lot of people struggle with this.
Empowerment is truly a transition of power with the priority on the recipient.
Empowerment is a transfer of understanding – how’s and why’s are critical. It emphasizes importance and relevance. It often comes with learning new skills and when and how to apply them. It’s learning one lesson at a time until an entire collection of lessons is known and thought through with critical thinking. It’s enabling others to think their way through situations.
The pictures shown here are my son, hanging a TV and putting together a closet system. He wasn’t told what to do and then miraculously ‘get it’ by doing. He’s learned over the years. Does he understand the importance of anchors and/or finding studs? Yes. Does he understand pilot holes and why to use them? Yes. Does he know how to use a drill and change bits quickly? Yes. Does he know the importance of the level and how to use it? Absolutely. The list goes on. But, it wasn’t done all at the same time. You don’t empower someone with a single moment. It happens slowly, as understanding grows. It’s gradual and it comes with lots of little connections.
It’s how I’ve run my businesses, it’s how I teach my classes, and it’s how I’ve raised my kids.
My goal is to empower, not tell someone what to do.
Believe in them and tell them so until they end up believing in themselves enough to make positive changes for themselves.
Ever since my near death experience over a decade ago, my goal is to make people around me ‘self-sufficient’ in as many ways as possible.
So, how can you tell the difference?
Delegation is focused on the person telling someone what to do as they get the benefit. Do this for me and you won’t get punished. I’m in charge and I want this done so I can look better by saying I got you to do this or that. I don’t want to do this and I’m in charge of you so you do it. Do it now because I said so. You know, those kinds of things.
Empowerment is focused on the person doing the job. Do you have everything you need to be successful? Do you understand why I’m having you do this? Can you tell me the steps you’ll need to do the next time this happens? If I’m not here next time will you know how to take action? If I leave you in charge can I be assured you can handle anything that comes up?
With kids, it’s easy to just simply tell them what to do. It doesn’t mean they’re learning anything by doing so. It doesn’t get them to think. It just makes them resentful.
With employees, having every task laid out and measured doesn’t allow for any stretching or improvement. It just says I basically need a robot and I need you to do only this, nothing more.
You see this all the time with employees that can’t make decisions. “I’m sorry, I’ll have to ask my boss.” Or, “I’ll see if the manager can help you in any way” or “I’ll let the manager know and they’ll get back to you” or “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do” or worse, “I’m sorry, I wish I could do something to help you.”
The more each one of us becomes empowered, the more everyone around us wins. We become responsible for decisions and thus think through the ramifications of choices rather than tossing it over to someone else.
Parents, empower your children and watch them flourish. You’ll all be better off in the future as you’ll be able to treat them as functioning adults rather than taking care of them forever.
Managers, empower your employees and watch them ‘outgrow’ their positions. You’ll change lives and futures of those who work for you and make them feel like they work ‘with’ you. If you’ve done it right, your past employees will go on to grow in all they do or even run their own successful organizations.
It’s tough, but it’s the right thing to do. Look for ways to empower people around you and you’ll benefit as well. Limit others and you’ll always feel like you’re the only one that can do anything and you’ll burn out over time.
The next time you’re given the option of how to lead, ask yourself this question – am I helping someone become better at something or am I merely having someone do something for me?
If you’re empowering others, you’re using your candle to light other candles that may eventually burn brighter than your own. You’re becoming the leader you always wanted to be. You’ll grow just by watching others grow and, I’ll warn you now, it’s addicting.
Be the one who empowers others and feel better about your contribution to the world as it’ll have ripple effects. Don’t be selfish and hold people back just so you’ll have someone to do the dirty work you don’t want to do.
**added in after further thought*^ Empowering the wrong person can backfire quickly as they’ll abuse the newfound power and use it against you. Empowering someone with inherent character flaws can and often will create a monster. You basically amplify characteristics that need not be amplified, so don’t just do this blindly.
If you’ve ever had someone empower you, share this, tag the person in the comments and say thank you! Growth is important for everyone, but it’s also important to recognize those that sacrifice their own time to make other’s lives better.
And, feel free to add any of your own thoughts on the subject. Would love to hear how delegation and/or empowerment has helped shape you.

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