Empowerment leads to increased accountability and increased accountability leads to a higher probability of success.
When we delegate tasks to our staff, they do not automatically assume that they are empowered to deliver them, often they need to be explicitly told that they are also empowered.
Without empowerment they don’t feel accountable for the task, they just feel responsible for following the instructions given, and if that doesn’t lead to success then it’s clearly not their fault.
Often when reviewing why things failed, one of the questions that comes up is “if you knew what needed to be changed for this to be successful, why didn’t you do it” and the answer that is often received is “I didn’t know I was authorized to do that”.
This is all about empowerment.
When you empower someone you give them the authority to do whatever is needed for the task to be successfully completed.
When people feel that they have this authority; then they are much more likely to accept accountability for ensuring success, and when they accept accountability for success the probability has significantly increased.
Empowerment is not about removing limits and giving them a free hand, it’s often about setting limits. Giving clear boundaries within which where they are free to make decisions.
It’s often these lack of clear boundaries that stops people from feeling empowered.
For example, I tell someone that they need to hire a temp by Friday and we’re happy to pay up to $50 per hour.
This means that they are free to hire without coming back to me, providing the costs are within the limits set.
I have often seen tasks as simple fail because the limits weren’t clearly set and hence people didn’t feel empowered to make a decision.
No one was hired even though they had found someone at a rate of $45 per hour and they didn’t know this was ok and looked for approvals which didn’t come in time.
Also, if we don’t set limits then people may make decision that exceed what we would like, e.g, they hire someone for $60 per hour.
In both cases the task was not successfully completed and in neither case does the person feel accountable for the failure.
Although this is a simplistic example, it is important to understand the importance of empowerment.
As I say people do not naturally assume they are empowered when we assign them tasks.
If we empower people when we assign them tasks, then we will be more likely to accept accountability and this significantly increases the chance of success.