Thursday 8 March 2018

Why is it so difficult to do real Empowerment

An efficient empowerment inside organizations is one of the most frequently issue that I´ve worked with organizations managers, as a Coach or as a Mentor. Why is it so hard to put it in practice? Does a manager need specific skill to do it? Does a manager need some specific team or employee to do it? Or is it a matter of mind constrains?
This subject is more relevant on first line managers or even on senior managers facing fast growing or hard changes inside their companies, but generally speaking good empowerment is one of the biggest challenge for management.

What is empowerment

But what is empowerment? In fact it is a kind of delegation: the delegation of power. It is very easy to delegate tasks, it is more difficult to delegate power and it is an error to delegate responsibility (responsibility is never to be delegated: one can delegate tasks to an employee or a colleague, who will have some responsibility to perform that task on time and on budget, but the main responsibility remains on the former one – that’s why I always talk about “responsibility” and never about “guilt”: the first one is very easy to find, the second one always “dies alone”).

The non-empowerment usual scenario

So what´s the impact of the lack of empowerment in organizations? Think about a manager who has new responsibilities, a larger team to manage, a new BU to lead, some kind of a new large set of resources to deal with. In most situations he needs to jump from his usual arena, the operational tasks, to a new one where strategic thinking and strategic decisions need to be performed. He needs to be focused on the better way to sail the boat. He needs to find the right team leaders and empower them on specific areas… But this move is usually a difficult move! Note that the new responsibilities are already on his shoulders… but he has no time to do this new job. Why? Because he keeps his focus on the team operational tasks, as he did before. As a Coach I´m always listening things like: “I do the operations tasks better and faster that anyone in my team”, “I don’t have time to wait until others do their stuff… they spend twice my usual time”, “I work more than 12 hours per day and I don’t have time to manage my team, I don’t have time to define and implement the team strategy and I don’t have time to talk with my pears”, “I often need to ask some help and advices from my management, even when I feel that they think that I should do it alone, by myself”, “My team is unmotivated and I’m losing staff”, “My team does never improve their performance and I never see any employee development”, etc.

The snow ball effect

So it’s easy to see the cause-effect scenario: no empowerment means that I, as a manager, need to perform a significant set of my team tasks and decisions; then I don´t have time to perform my management tasks because I’m always focused on operational tasks and not on strategic ones; then I often need to ask my management to help me on tasks that they expect me to do; then I don´t feel comfortable about this situation; concerning my team, as I’m doing operational tasks and taking their decisions I get inside my staff work arena, then I don’t give them space to work and grow, and obviously they stay unmotivated… I feel like a soccer coach who trained his team and then jumps to the football field during the game instead of waiting outside… So I have the power! I’m doing everything and taking all the team’s decisions! I control everything! But I don´t have time to define, implement and correct the strategy issues. I don’t have time to dispatch subjects! I don´t have time to unlock processes’ bottlenecks! I’m failing as a manager, I’m letting down my management expectations about me and I´m not developing and motivating my team. Because I’m not delegating power! Because I´m not using the empowerment as a powerful management practice.

The empowerment barriers

And why does it happen? To do empowerment you need:
  1. to trust you team – it’s impossible to delegate power when you don’t trust others;
  2. to have attitude and the skills to perform real management tasks – unless your management was wrong when took you in charge, you have them;
  3. to be prepared to jump to a new uncomfortable zone – ok, this is the point! Most of the time my coachees discovered that the real reason not to “leave operational stuff” is not the enjoyment of that stuff, but in fact the fear to leaving their comfort zone and embrace the uncertainty… They need to feel that growing never happens in the comfort zones, the ones they know so well, and to have the awareness that to jump to an uncomfortable zone is only possible if they face their fears. And do you know what happens?  The fears disappear, because they are “what-if” thoughts, they are mind constrains, they live there and they are not real. In many situations the empowerment barrier is only a matter of mind constrains.

So work daily on team trust, delegate power to your line managers so thy can manage their units as entrepreneurs, ask them for accountability and use your time for your real management tasks: share the team mission - purpose, strategy, values and vision; strengthen stakeholders’ relationships; improve yourself as a leader; use leadership everywhere; motivate and develop your team and, of course, follow and achieve your business goals