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Good management means great empowerment.

So, we’ve discussed why it is important to build consensus in an organization in most every major decision.  To do so, a CEO must be able to relinquish some degree of power, overriding decisions made by consensus only with some thought and certainly with an explanation to those involved.

A manager secure in the position should never fear empowering direct reports to make decisions that fall within the resources allocated to them and within the budget agreed to with them.  A micro-manager cannot cede that kind of authority, even within pre-arranged limits, and as a result meddles with decisions made by direct reports, removing authority from each whenever such moves are made, and rendering the individual more impotent in the eyes of that person’s reports.

On the other hand, a great CEO or manager not only empowers his or her direct reports, s/he directs those people to do the same with their reports down the line.  All this is done within limits that should seem obvious: financial impact has been provided for within the plan; and no other individuals or departments are affected negatively by such an empowered action without notice and involvement.

[Email readers, continue here…]  The more power you cede, the more you become a teacher and the more your direct reports grow in their positions.  Further, the more you share your decisions, the more you prepare those below to assume your position if ever necessary or appropriate.

If you cannot or will not empower your direct reports, you must ask yourself: why?  If it is insecurity that is the root cause, then the best course of action is to share the power even more quickly, as you’ll look and feel more like the group is supportive of you and your position.  If you are a micro-manager and are unwilling to allow those below to fail, even with more minor decisions, then you are restricting their growth in their positions, certainly causing dissatisfaction in their ranks, and missing the most important opportunities to enable scaling your organization to a much larger size.

  • Russ,
    “Noses in, fingers out!” relates to board members and managers not directly supervising employees. Reaching around a manager does real damage to that manager’s ability to control. The proper way to handle such a problem as you describe is to call in the direct manager first, then if necessary both the employee and manager. Never direct the employee without his manager or manager’s explicit permission unless it is an emergency in progress. Steve Jobs would have done the opposite; but that doesn’t make it right. He was known as a tyrant, but got away with it. Not a role model to follow in this instance.

  • What happens if you are talking to somebody relatively junior that is doing the work and you discover a problem? Do you fix it right away and undermine their manager, set up a conference with both the manager and worker to fix the problem, or call the manager into a private meeting?

    And what would Steve Jobs have done?

  • Great but of to empower subordinates effectively, you must also communicate this policy effectively with those lateral to you and get their buy in. This is because subordinates may have to communicate across the organization and get other approvals in order to make a decision. Unless your lateral peers know your subordinate has this executive authority, the peers are likely be resistant to providing approval or a green light on any item brought to them by your subordinate. So this empowerment strategy has to be recognized company wide to be effective. Josh

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