Empowerment is a tricky business. The backbone of any successful business is a steady supply of leadership talent. To create this talent pool, existing leaders and supervisors should consider opportunities to prepare those around them for the challenges of a leadership role.
That said, taking high potential candidates and moving them forward to leadership readiness is tricky. How and when do you know an employee is ready? The assumption is that the leader is continuously testing and evaluating each employee to determine what level of empowerment he or she is capable of assuming successfully on behalf of the organisation. Following the six levels of empowerment is a great place to start.
Level 1: The employee researches an assigned activity; reports back what they have learned or discovered; but the leader will decide what action is to be taken.
This is the most basic level of empowerment. It’s used to determine how an individual thinks, prepares, works and communicates. It’s most commonly used when evaluating the actual skills of employees. If specific development needs are identified, specific plans for further training and development might be undertaken. If the individual meets and exceeds expectations in this area, then the next level of empowerment should be considered.
Level 2: The employee researches and assigned activity; reports the alternative actions/options that are available; suggests one for implementation; but the leader will decided what action is to be taken.
This is where you evaluate the mental dexterity and awareness of various decision making options and how relevant or irrelevant they might be for the organisation’s specific purposes and intents. As before, there continues to be no relevant risk to the employee since the leader has reserved the right to make the decision. If the employee is determined to be ready, the next step in the process may be assigned.
Level 3: The employe researches an assigned activity; reports back what they intend to do; but don’t act without the leaders approval.
Notice there’s a marked increase in the expectation of performance from the employee. This is the first level at which the employee assumes some specific level of risk. However, the leader has continued to maintain some level of “control” by making sure s/he’s comfortable with the agreed actions. In each of these first three levels of empowerment, continuing one-on-one, face-to-face communication and the conversations that need to take place are absolutely critical. If the employee is determined to be ready, the next step in the process may be assigned.
Level 4: The employee researches an assigned activity; reports back what they intend to do; goes ahead with plan unless the leader says ”no”.
By this point in the process, the trust level has clearly increased between both parties. The employee has earned the right to move to this level of empowerment based on an understanding of the goals and objectives of the organisation and his or her proven performance and identified ability to meet those goals and objectives. Communication is still important at this level, but the reins of decision making responsibility are now being passed from the leader to the employee.
Level 5: Employee researches an assigned activity; takes the action they deemed appropriate; report back what they did to the leader.
The employee is working independently of their leader, with the leader’s full knowledge and confidence based on the employee’s past proven ability and successes. The unencumbered performance of the employee, in turn, frees the leader to complete other tasks.
Level 6: The employee researches an assigned activity; takes the action they deemed appropriate; no further communication is required.
This is the highest level of empowerment. It’s rarely earned and rarely granted–and then only to the best, most tested and most trusted employees. With this level, both supervisor and employee share the risk of the empowered actions taken.
Creating a continuous flow of leadership talent from within the organisation can happen and happen effectively when those in leadership positions are willing to share power with those individuals who demonstrate they are worthy of the challenge.
Written by Sahar Habib