In theory every manager would like to be surrounded by initiative, problem solver, responsible and competent employees who have their own authority and great decision makers as well. In theory – because in practice they fear that such an employee is like a threat for their leader: they think that such subordinate will apply for their chair one day.
So, what empowerment means and how can it be done right?
Employee empowerment is giving employees a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making regarding their specific organizational tasks. It allows decisions to be made at the lower levels of an organization where employees have a unique view of the issues and problems facing the organization at a certain level.
The benefits of employee empowerment is, that they feel a stronger sense of ownership and worth when they entrusted of making important decisions including answering and solving the complaints of already frustrated and angry customer who – in other cases – supposed to wait for a manager. And in top of that they are more productive in their roles as well.
- Give them clear goals and challenges: start it broad, like making sure that they understand the vision of the company: where is stands right now, where it would like to get and how from point A to B. Their individual goals that include some challenges as well by being more complex than their actual skills have to be aligned with the company’s vision. Allow them to set their own goals if it’s possible and ask them what king of experiences might help them to grow professionally. Also make clear the path to advancement to them. Make sure that by giving them new challenges you don’t throw them out completely from their comfort zone and leave them their as if they were thrown in front of lions without boundaries.
- Recognize their efforts and value their uniqueness: no matter how an employee performs a task currently, you still have to value that person as a human being. Just by simply ignoring some person and treating them as invisibles, diminishes their motivation. If you reward the tiniest successes as well at the beginning it will give the feeling to your subordinates that their ideas and opinions are valued and will not be scared to speak up. In short: give them consructive feedback as frequently as necessary and possible.
- Trust them and make them feel ownership: if your expectations are clear to your employees then trust that they will find the answers and solutions for any occurring problem and question. These may not be the ones you would have found, bit still could work. Allow them to complete something from the start to the end: so they can claim responsibility for the outcome. Ownership will also make them more focused on accomplishing, less worried and eliminates second guessing.
- Have an open communication policy and let them decide: make sure that your subordinates are not required to initiate decisions based on information and context that exist only in your mind. When they seem to be stuck, instead of taking away their authority, give them feedback on how they are performing, ask them questions, be their mentor, provide the necessary trainings and coaches.
- Get out of their way, in other words: stop micromanaging! How could anyone feel being empowered if his/her manager is always around like a babysitter checking on every single step he/she makes?! Give up a little control and the leader-follower mindset, so they can feel independent, self-confident and they can build up trust and a strong bond among each-other and with you. Create room for them to discover that they can achieve far more than they originally thought to be possible.
As Bill Gates famously said,
“As we look into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
I would add – based on the above points that are not exclusive and could be expanded – that great leaders will be those who know how to create a flow promoting working environment. Empowered employees who work independently but as part of a team, together can achieve more. If you would like to test your ability of empowering others in a safe way, I would suggest trying out the unique, interactive leadership developing game: FLIGBY.