LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT 1

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1 ACTION 1: Test what you have learnt about empowerment and empowering delegation with this case study. Ask yourself if you might feel empowered in this situation and if the leaders are applying the basic elements of empowerment CASE STUDY 1: THE CASE OF LAURA AND JOHN Laura has just been appointed manager of a national bank branch office. Her boss at the main office, John, is ambitious and has high expectations in turning it into one of the bank s best performing divisions. One of her first decisions is to raise her five employees salaries to equal the bank s other administrative personnel. When John finds out about it, he says it s a risky move and that she should have checked with him first. He is concerned about setting a precedent for other divisions and that her decision seems to show she has no control over her people. Laura stands firm. She says she is ready to back her decision with performance measures which she will regularly update. A few weeks later, a regional magazine Women in Business talks to Laura about writing an article on her work and how her career has evolved. She is quite excited and sees it as a great opportunity to inspire other women to work in the financial sector as well as promote her division and customer service approach. The day after the magazine publishes the article, John calls Laura to express his disappointment in her participating in the article without asking him about it. He says the bank has specialists in communications and public relations that are trained to handle media demands and they should have been informed. One month after the incident, a customer enters the branch with a check in foreign currency. He has had an account at the branch for more than 35 years. The bank policy is for any check deposit in foreign currency over 2,500 to be held for five days until the money is released from the issuing bank. Laura tells the customer that unfortunately she is not authorized to liquidate the funds immediately. About an hour later, she receives a call from John. He s furious. The customer called the main office asking whether something could be done to release his funds faster. John reminds Laura that this is a long-term customer and that besides his account, he also has a mortgage and significant investments with the bank. He tells her that she should have used more common sense and is very upset because he now has to take care of the damage caused. When Laura hangs up the telephone, she is ready to resign. LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT 1

2 Was Laura empowered as the branch manager? Why or why not? Explain based on the fundamental elements of empowerment and empowering delegation: What would John need to do differently to prevent Laura from resigning? What advice would you give Laura in her relations with John? LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT 2

3 ACTION 1: Test what you have learnt about empowerment and empowering delegation with this case study. Ask yourself if you might feel empowered in this situation and if the leaders are applying the basic elements of empowerment CASE STUDY 2: THE CASE OF DAN AND VICTORIA It is Dan s fourth day as Creative Director at an advertising agency. He s already been given his first campaign and has a team of people he can assign the work to. There are another two creative directors with the same type of portfolio as Dan, and they all report to Victoria. She believes her direct collaborators have the skills and experience needed to do their jobs well (that s why she hired them) and expects Dan to present an incredible advertising campaign in four weeks for approval. Dan dives right in. He plans a provocative ad, describes his concept to the members of his team and sends them off to do their work. Dan believes in his relaxed approach, considering the conversations he s had with his colleagues. Victoria has given the other creative directors great freedom and it seems as though they are doing very well so he thinks it s the right approach to give his team the same level of freedom. He believes everyone needs space to think creatively so he chooses not to interfere. At the beginning of the third week, Dan calls his team to combine everyone s work before his presentation to Victoria. He s horrified at the result. The ad text is weak, the graphic material is amateur and someone has even changed the slogan - which had been agreed upon with the team - for something unrecognizable. Victoria trusted him to manage the project and Dan though the members of his team would do their work but they have disappointed him. The organization s management philosophy is based on trust and empowerment meaning he has a hard time understanding how these incompetent people have been able to hold onto their jobs all this time. He surely has the worst team in the business! After lecturing each one of them on how poorly they had implemented his vision, he gives each person specific instructions as to what to do and when to do it. Afterwards, he called Victoria to request a meeting as he d like to discuss replacing his team with her. LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT 3

4 What went wrong here? After all, Dan gave his team members a vision and gave them the responsibility to bring it to life. Why didn t they follow through? What is Dan s idea of empowerment? Which elements does he use and which does he not use in creating an empowered workplace? What is Victoria s responsibility in all of this? What can she do to help Dan adapt to his new position? LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT 4

5 SOLUTION SUGGESTED FOR CASE STUDY 1 Was Laura empowered in her role as the branch manager? Why or why not? Explain in terms of the fundamental elements of empowerment and empowering delegation. Laura was not empowered. She was given responsibility with very little authority. John did not make the limits of her authority clear to her and she did not clarify them. John continuously says Laura s decisions are wrong after she has taken them. This undermines her confidence in being able to do her job at the expected level and causes her to question herself. She started off by defending her decisions. But when John reprimanded her twice about taking the initiative, she decided to play it safe. This also blew up in her face as John had expected she would use common sense and break with the policy with that particular customer. Laura is in a losing situation. John s use of empowerment is inconsistent which affects the trust in their working relationship. Instead of offering Laura support to make correct decisions, John lets her fail without any guidance. Plus, the communication between them is weak. John did not give Laura a core vision or any values to support her in her decision making; he just expects her common sense to be like his without explaining what he expects of her. The final result is a boss that can t give any control away and an experienced team member willing to leave her job before she starts questioning her judgement and competence. However, Laura is not innocent. She should have taken the initiative to ask John if he thought the magazine interview would have been a good idea. She also did not ask for his authorization to make an exception to the foreign currency policy, which is something a manager with more initiative could have done. What would John need to do differently to prevent Laura from resigning? John should take a look at his micro-management. He has many of the classical symptoms of a poor leader. He likes having control and does not have must confidence in Laura and wants things to be done his way. LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT 5

6 He needs to become familiar with the benefits of effective empowerment and delegation and the disadvantages of not practicing them. For example, his micro-management means he has less time to focus on his own priorities. John must give Laura a strong, orienting vision to help her make decisions. When he believes she has a similar outlook to his own and that of the rest of the organization, he will be more confident about her decisions - even when they differ from his. He also needs to open up channels of communication in order to recognize her merits as well as offer her constructive feedback. This will create a sense of achievement and help her develop more confidence. Consistency is a huge problem. John needs to decide how much authority he wants to give Laura and make his expectations clear. This will help them work together more effectively and give them the trust that they mutually support and appreciate each other. What advice would you give Laura in her relations with John? Laura needs to ask John about his vision for the branch office and clarify the degree of authority she has to make her own decisions. Thus, it will be easier for her to decide when to ask for help and when to trust in her own judgement. As John becomes used to giving up control and letting up on his tendency to micro-manage, Laura will have to become more assertive. She must ask for feedback meetings to come up with shared goals - the more they can learn from each other s styles and priorities, the better. She also needs to be more proactive in her relations with him when she finds herself in unusual circumstances. SOLUTION SUGGESTED FOR CASE STUDY 2 What went wrong here? After all, Dan gave his team members a vision and gave them the responsibility to bring it to life. Why didn t they follow through? Dan gave his team too much power, but not enough direction. This gave rise to people working in very different directions. Allowing them to do their work in the best possible way is very different from allowing them to do what they want! A convincing vision must not be communicated just once: it must be reinforced again and again with actions and words. Dan delegated the task and the plan, but did not communicate his vision. Without a strong and shared vision, his team went off at a tangent. LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT 6

7 What is Dan s idea of empowerment? Which elements does he use and which does he not use in creating an empowered workplace? Dan sees empowerment as complete trust in his team to execute his vision with their best abilities. Essentially, empowerment to him means the freedom to manage people s performance. Unfortunately, one is rarely freed of this responsibility as a manager. He also believes that helping others will develop their own sense of personal mastery. He wants them to go out and do what they have to do without exercising too much management control. However, he also needs to provide support and resources so they know exactly what they must do. Dan s communication and follow-through is poor. This means he misses opportunities to guide his team towards the achievement of minor victories and increase the successes which contribute to greater achievements. Giving his team an opportunity to impress, he ended up with an unfeasible final product and undermined their confidence. What is Victoria s responsibility in all of this? What can she do to help Dan adapt to his new position? Victoria contributed to Dan s idea of empowerment through her own approach to handing over control. She sent Dan off to do his work and he did the same with his team. She needs to provide Dan with more guidance as to how to empower others. She should also remember that she has chosen her creative directors probably because she quickly trusts people. On the other hand, Dan was given a new team meaning he needs to find out what each person s abilities are before giving them too much responsibility. Victoria should explain to Dan that he needs to take things calmly and build a solid base before giving the members of his team total freedom. She could also speak to him about his idea of empowerment. He thinks that it is all about giving people total freedom whereas their creative efforts must be consistent with his vision and underlying values. LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT 7

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