By Michael Holland

When a leader holds onto a project or work that could be delegated, is he being selfless or selfish?

  • Is he supporting and protecting his employees or is he limiting their growth potential?
  • Is he making sure things are done right or is he limiting the opportunities for innovation in work product and/or processes?
  • Is he buffering his employees from too much work or is he doing work he prefers to do instead of his employees?

Effective empowerment and delegation may just be the most difficult behaviors for leaders to master.  There is a tension that exists for leaders in knowing how much leeway to provide and for how long.

Do any of these statements ring true for you. . .

  • Once I get a handle on blah, blah, blah then I’ll hand it off to them.
  • I know what I want the outcome to be from blah, blah, blah project, so it’s just better for me to work through it.
  • I’ll work the extra time to get the work done because I don’t want my employee working the extra time.

The law of tension of empowerment states an employee’s growth in capability is accomplished on the margins of their current capability.  Through healthy delegation and empowerment, employees grow and they enable leaders to lead at higher levels.

Thoughts on healthy tension of empowerment. . .

  • Delegate Until it Scares You – As the leader, you need to empower and delegate until is hurts and scares you.  Likewise,  you need to empower your employees and delegate until it scares them.
  • Growing Muscles – You will grow your leadership muscles with the healthy tension.  Pushing yourself to delegate to employees will challenge your margins of capability and push you to learn how to lead empowered employees rather than manage busy employees.
  • Recognize the Tension – Talk with your employees about the tension, how it feels, why it’s important to stretch for both of you.  The goal must be to create a more effective and a productive team which can only be led by an effective and productive leader.
  • It’s Not a Balance – It is a tension to be managed.

You are being paid to get the most productivity from your employees in a healthy and sustainable way.  Investing in building their capabilities, their expertise, and their belief in themselves produces unbelievably, satisfied and engaged employees.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • How would you describe the relationship between delegation and empowerment?  Go to lunch with a peer leader and discuss your and their thoughts.
  • Do you believe it’s right or wrong to delegate until it scares an employee?
  • Which of these statements ring true for you:
    • Once I get a handle on blah, blah, blah then I’ll hand it off to them.
    • I know what I want the outcome to be from blah, blah, blah project, so it’s just better for me to work through it
    • I’ll work the extra time to get the work done because I don’t want my employee working the extra time.