Empowerment vs. Delegation

by Jack Warren, editor and host of the Top Coach podcast

My go-to example whenever asked about customer service goes like this:

I stopped by my local McDonald’s to pick up a sweet tea. I went up to the counter and was greeted by a high school girl who took my order. I handed her a twenty dollar bill. With the twenty in her hand, she turned and said, “I need some change!” Perhaps ten seconds passed when she looked back my way, returned my twenty, and said, “This drink is on me.”

Now this is a small example, but powerful nonetheless. You see, she worked for a couple who owned the nine local McDonald’s, Bob and Julie Dobski, who always put the customer experience first. While the young lady who worked the counter may have been tasked with taking orders, her real job was the customer experience. A sign that hung over the drive-through window (not meant for the customers to see) proclaimed, “Make it Right!”

You see, while the young lady working the counter was assigned (or delegated) the job of taking orders and making change, she was empowered to make it right for the customer.

When you assign responsibilities to your staff, are you merely delegating or are you empowering your staff to do whatever is necessary to get the job done? What that involves, of course, is the possibility that mistakes will be made. Therein lies the key — allow your people to fail. The moment this becomes a problem for you, trust will be lost that you will have a hard time regaining.

Don’t make this hard. Delegate to your staff, then empower them to get the job done. Don’t look over their shoulder. Be slow to correct and criticize. Praise innovation, creativity, empathy, and perseverance. Instruct. Rinse and repeat. You get the idea.

Do not lose sight of your ultimate goal. And understand that the ultimate team building will occur with empowerment.

Jack is available to speak to your team or organization or at your next function. He also provides individual and organizational coaching and consulting. You can get more information on these services at Jack’s professional services site, JackWWarren.com.

Photo by Igor Starkov

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