The key to empowering a team member lies in the project manager's ability to get to know the person's strengths and weaknesses. Some people, although highly skilled, are weak at managing customers. Some have the ability to influence but aren't necessarily good at managing time.
In one of my earlier posts, I talked about delegating work to team members as a way to help them succeed. To be able to delegate effectively, project managers simply cannot pick one person and assign him or her a task without carefully considering that person's skills.
When empowering team members, the same rules apply. In some cases, you can only see the true colors of a person through action.
First, select someone with a suitable background and competencies. Then test the person with small decisions or tasks. Check if he or she can communicate effectively by having conversations to gauge his or her ability to think and act proactively.
When you empower team members by giving them greater responsibility, you can significantly improve the way a project is managed. Deadlines that require input or quick decisions can be met promptly, for example. Customer satisfaction can be improved because a team member doesn't have to go through layers of approval. And, those empowered team members may get a confidence boost.
What decisions do you trust your team members to make? Have you experienced any negative impacts by empowering team members? Do you think empowering team members improves project delivery?