Empowerment is great…if you do it. But most people don’t. We give employees ownership but no control or resources. That is not empowerment as there is no transferral or granting of power. Managers seems to thrive on control which is a result of a misunderstanding. Being responsible for something getting does not always mean you have to do it or even control it. If you truly want to empower your employees you will have to give them power.
Will Schutz, a noted behavioral psychologist, developed a behavior theory that helps explain how and why we behave the way we do, especially with others. His Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) Theory espouses that the degree to which we prefer to have control speaks volumes about our fears of being incompetent. If I can control everything, then I feel there is less a chance anything will go wrong and I will not be seen as incompetent. Or the reverse can be true; if I relinquish all control then I had nothing to do with why it failed so that keeps me from feeling incompetent as well. I think this says a lot about why many managers or leaders are afraid of giving up any control. It might make them feel as though they have failed in some way at either developing their employees, providing good expectations, or coaching for better performance. If I were competent as a manager then my employees would be great and could do it all perfectly, right?
It is a fallacy that many managers struggle with and quite honestly they are not entirely to blame. Rarely do they get the training they need to become better managers. Often the promotions look and sound like “okay, congratulations you are a manager now…let me know if you need anything” and then they leave offering no specific support. So what else are they to do? They do what they know and have been rewarded for in the past…and that is doing the task instead of actually handing control over to the employees they now manage.
If you want to empower you employees ask yourself how much control they have over how they do the task, how they manage their schedule, what resources they use, and whether or not they could do it without you. If the answers are less than you would desire in your position, then you need to seriously look at why you feel the need to control so much of it. If it truly is because you have incompetent employees, you need to start coaching them or navigating them out the door.
Effective leaders set a clear vision of where you are trying to go (expectations) and give the necessary resources for others to get there (training, authority, control, tools, etc.) If you want to empower your employees, look at the level of control they have as well as the level of responsibility, if they are not equal then work to balance them out for better results.