I recently was asked, “what are your thoughts on empowering employees?” That question by itself was a bit odd. I had to dig a bit further to fully understand what was fueling the reason to ask. A bit of discussion later, they wanted to know if I and how would I empower a team. Empowering teams and employees has been around for many years. Some great success stories are out there (Southwest Airlines, Xerox and 3M come to my mind). I bet we all can look at empowerment examples close to our hearts that have gone bad. So why does it work? There is no secret sauce, just some basic steps and hard work.
Answering that question I shared my thoughts on what I would do to make empowering the team work:
- Be a strong leader. Many people think they are good leaders, but maybe they are good managers. There is a difference. Are you inspiring the team to be successful? Are you telling the team how to be successful? Can you let go?
- Insure the basics are well-known. Basics to me are the expectations and goals of any team. Making sure that the team is a part of setting those will help to insure that everyone understands. Having the tools to monitor progress to those goals to measure performance. Feedback and course correct when necessary. After awhile the team can do all that on their own.
- Let your employees act. Decision making is critical. Having decisions made at the lowest level will help to keep things moving. Here is where the work is… Empower your employees and build their confidence by asking probing questions that help them arrive at their own answers. My favorite reply from an employee was – I come to you and you ask me my opinion and suggestion, then you pick my suggestion. Why? To me that is the training exercise for good decision-making. They build their confidence and learn.
- Encourage. Each employee within the team will learn and grow at different pace. Keep encouraging them to thinking creatively and share their ideas. The strength is in the team.
I have had some pretty incredible teams that have done some amazing things. Those teams were empowered! I spent my time coaching, mentoring and removing roadblocks. They spent their time getting the work done – with some great results.
What do you do to make your teams successful? How do you empower them?