When to Delegate and When to EMPOWER a Team Member

Posted by Kristin Arnold on September 30, 2019

“Empowerment” is an often misused term. According to Dictionary.com, “empowerment” is defined as “to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means.”

As team leaders, our wildest fantasy is that we could simply “empower” our teams to do the work and then we just need to be available to provide moral support and remove roadblocks (And eat a few bon-bons because they are so darn empowered!).

Wouldn’t that be amazing?  That would mean every single member of our team is fully capable and motivated to complete their assigned tasks successfully.

Reality Check: it’s not that simple because team members are at different stages of abilities as well as motivation.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t delegate tasks to them. I have found that there are

Four different levels of delegation:

  1. When a team member is not able and reluctant to immediately engage, you need to delegate that task by setting clear expectations, providing specific directions, and closely supervising task accomplishment.
  2. When a team member is not able (but thinks they are, but you know better!) and is eager to accomplish the task, you still have to set clear expectations and closely supervise task accomplishments.  However, you will also need to spend some time explaining decisions, soliciting suggestions, having them reflect on past successes, and encouraging progress.
  3. When a team member is able to do the job (and you know that to be true based on observation and prior work product), yet are reluctant to proceed, then you facilitate and support the team member’s efforts toward the delegated task by asking questions, guiding thought processes, providing confidence and sharing responsibility for decision making.
  4. When a team member is both able and eager to do the job, that’s when you can truly “empower” a team member to successfully complete a task.  You share the desired outcome(s), and turn over responsibility by delegating decision making and problem solving.  And you encourage the team member to keep you informed of appropriate progress.

You can “delegate” a task to anyone on your team – regardless of their ability and motivation; You can only “empower” a person when they are able and motivated to accomplish a specific task.


KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

Recent Articles:

Standout Tips to Make Each Meeting MATTER

What to Look For When Hiring a Meeting Facilitator

Stretch your Leadership Team’s Ability to Think Strategically

Photo source: Depositphotos.com

Skip to content