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How to Delegate, Save Time, and Build Trust with Your Employees

By Shane Bender

As a small business owner or leader of any organization, do you struggle with being involved in every aspect of your growing company? Do you long for the days when it was smaller and you could know everything that is going on? Are you growing so fast and you know you need to hire people, but you worry it will be more work than it is worth? Maybe you are fully aware that you need to delegate, but you simply struggle to let go. If this is you or you know someone like this, then please read further.

There comes a point in any organization when you must hire and delegate to grow. But it is not as simple as just hiring and all your problems will be solved.  You must learn to teach, train, and empower your employees and build processes to ensure the culture stays intact and you trust those you rely on.  How do you do that? Phillip Van Hooser defines empowerment as the power to grant your power to someone else. He writes about the Six Levels of Empowerment as listed below:

  • Level 1: You report; I will decide.
  • Level 2: Identify the alternatives; suggest one for implementation; I will decide.
  • Level 3: Report what you intend to do; but wait for my approval.
  • Level 4: Report what you intend to do; do it unless I say “no”.
  • Level 5: Take action; report what you did.
  • Level 6: Take action; no further communication is necessary.

How are you working with your team members?  What are some problems that can come about due to lack of empowerment or too much empowerment?  I have listed 4 challenges.

Stuck at Level 1

Once a business owner or leader decides to hire someone to help them accomplish more, they should start out at Level 1 (You report; I will decide) in most cases. You might decide to quickly move to the next level if the person you hired is experienced.  Sometimes employees stay at level 1 too long. Why would someone even consider leaving someone at Level 1?

  • Multiple mistakes or errors which leads to a lack of trust. In this case, this employee may need to be replaced.
  • Leader lacks confidence to hand over responsibility due to insecurity or fear of losing their job.
  • Leader likes control and struggles giving it up.
  • Lack of time spent training an employee so they are not ready to go to the next level.

There might be other reasons, but in all the above cases, usually either the employee will leave or the leader will end up getting frustrated and replace this employee.

Skipping levels

If a business owner or leader needs to relieve responsibility due to being overwhelmed, there is a tendency to move too fast or skip levels altogether.  This could happen if the leader is overwhelmed and needs to unload work quickly.

If an employee goes from Level one (You report, I decide), to Level 5 (Take action, report what you did), most likely both the manager/owner or employee will get frustrated.  The owner will, for a time, feel like everything is good until they find out something was implemented that they don’t agree with.  The manager will be frustrated because they have to clean up a mess. The employee will be frustrated due to not fully understanding how the manager thinks and makes decisions.

Lack of communication and clarity

Lack of clarity is quite common when managers/owners do not take the time to communicate.  In my article, 5 Ways to Grow Your Business to the Next Level, I talk further about the need to over communicate and the importance of clarity on your team.  If the manager thinks an employee is at Level 2 (Identify the alternatives; suggest one for implementation; I will decide) but the employee thinks they are at Level 4 (Report what you intend to do; do it unless I say “no), there will be chaos.

Inconsistency in Expectations

What if one day a manager expects Level 1 empowerment and another day, Level 3?  What if the manager moves the levels depending on workload and mood?  This is quite frustrating for the employee to not know what to expect.  I am sure this is more common than we want to admit.  Inconsistency doesn’t work with raising kids, so it sure is not going to work in a business.

Conclusion

It is important to hire and rely on others as you grow your organization. When you do so, empower your employees and communicate on the level they are at.  As they move up to the next level, communicate this also.  It is possible that an employee could move back down to level 1 or 2, but this can get tricky for employee morale.  People like to grow and move to the next level. Think of school. Would you like to be stuck in 5th grade or get demoted to 4th grade?  Be consistent with your expectations and you will spend less time in chaos and cleaning up messes.

This isn’t easy, but we need to be mindful of this because in order to grow our business, team, or leadership skills, we all need to learn the art of empowerment.

 About Bender CFO Services Inc.

Bender CFO Services Inc. provides fractional CFO services to small to medium sized companies. This affordable solution gives companies higher level accounting and finance services such as financial reporting, financial forecasting and modeling, and investor, banking, audit, and accounting support without the need of a full time CFO, Director of Financial Planning & Analysis, and in many cases, a Controller. For more information, please visit www.bendercfoservices.com or email me at shane@bendercfoservices.com.

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