Everyone managing people experiences the difference between someone “punching the clock” to get to the end of the day and those who are genuinely engaged in what they are doing. The results you get from each mindset are astoundingly different.
If you read anything on leadership, you are often advised to empower the people you are leading. If you do that, you are told, you will get their best effort, and they will be engaged in what you are working to accomplish. The authors often stop there as if everyone knows exactly how to empower people.
I agree that empowering people is a key to a happy and robust organization. Creating empowerment, however, can be difficult for some leaders. The word empower contains within it the word power. When you empower other people, you transfer some of the ability to make decisions, plans, and strategies to others. You have to give up some control. That can be hard for some of us.
The actions of the leader are what creates an empowered team. The way you lead makes a mindset that frees your team to use their talents to best advantage. When you understand those actions, you can gauge whether your team is equipped to be empowered and your confidence in empowering them. If not, what you need to do to get them ready.
Knowledge leading to Confidence. Does your team have the experience they need to make decisions and plans on their own? Identify the gaps and make a plan to fill them in. Do they need skills, resources, or training to be ready? Sometimes a team member needs to clear some “head trash” before reaching the next level. Taking the time to prepare each person builds their confidence in themselves and your confidence in their abilities.
A Plan leading to Clarity. Does your team know where your organization is going and why? Do they know the key things to accomplish? If they don’t know the goals, they certainly can’t make the right decisions to move things forward. Create a clear plan and communicate it to everyone. For those you are working to empower, take time to talk over the expected results. Sharing your vision and strategy creates the clarity that gets everyone on the same page.
Authority leading to Responsibility. Are you giving your team the authority to do the things you are holding them responsible for? Do they know what you are expecting them to deliver and where their boundaries are? Most times, the people you lead will draw those boundaries far tighter than you will. Be clear about what actions they can take on their own and what needs approval from you. Clear lines of authority free team members to make it happen.
Once your team has the knowledge, plan, and authority needed, they are confident, clear, and empowered to take responsibility. All of this cycle starts with the actions of the leader. Those actions create a two-way trust relationship. You trust the team because you know they have the ability, are clear on the direction, and know when to ask questions. They trust you because they feel confident, know the goal, and understand their boundaries. That creates the empowerment that leads to action and results.
Do you ever wonder why your team members wait for you to make all the decisions? Take a look at this model and see what might be missing.
If you need help empowering your team, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org