Use authentic empowerment to grow leaders, and your business

Posted by Mitzi Branvold | Thursday, October 10, 2019

Use authentic empowerment to grow leaders, and your business

Posted by Mitzi Branvold | Thursday, October 10, 2019

A small company can be successful with a single leader, but as companies grow, their success will rely on growing new leaders as well as new business. Business leaders who don’t develop leadership at all levels will soon be overwhelmed as they try to make more decisions and keep control over a growing number of employees.

What is authentic empowerment?

Employee empowerment means giving employees permission to take action and make decisions. This allows employees who have the most in-depth knowledge of the tasks, issues and problems at a given level to make decisions about their own work.

It’s not as simple as it sounds. Often workers feel that they are handed new responsibilities without the authority to make decisions and be accountable for the results of their choices. When workers are expected to check in constantly with upper levels before making a decision, they become hesitant to handle customers or problems on their own. They may begin to feel that it’s not their job to find or solve problems.

What are its advantages?

Creating a work environment that supports authentic empowerment takes time, trust and a clear company mission. But its benefits include:

  • Quicker response to issues and problems because they are identified sooner
  • Increased productivity because decisions can be made quickly and workflow is not disrupted
  • Stronger employee commitment to the company and achieving its goals

Companies that rely on top-down control make employees feel a lack of trust. This crushes creativity because workers don’t feel encouraged to offer their ideas. Instead, they do what they’re told–and nothing more–even if they feel they know a better way.

How does empowerment work?

Creating a work environment of empowerment is process of building trust and open communication between team members and team leaders. Here are some steps to making it work:

  • Define the company mission and goals to be sure everyone understands the big picture and is working toward the same vision of success.
  • Talk to employees about where they feel strong and able to contribute more. Discuss their goals about whether they are looking to take on more responsibility or whether they feel overwhelmed. Don’t skip this step. Empowerment starts with a conversation that involves listening, understanding and coaching. You do not want to pile responsibility on to an employee who doesn’t want it, or to randomly delegate without considering who has the interest and skills to step up to a new role.
  • Set clear expectations for each new area of responsibility. Aside from the tasks involved, discuss what issues they are authorized to resolve, what decisions they are encouraged to make on their own, and in what situations you expect them to check in or seek guidance. (Of course these can change as both parties gain confidence in the process.)
  • Be sure the employee has the skill set required for the new responsibility. Specifically ask if they feel comfortable taking on the new tasks, or perhaps need more instruction, training or coaching. Define what success looks like in this new role.
  • Give autonomy. Allow an employee to do tasks differently and focus on the outcome, not the process. If an employee makes a decision that is different from what their manager would have made, don’t assume it’s wrong. Discuss the reason for the decision and objectively assess the outcome.
  • When mistakes do happen, be sure to praise the employee’s initiative and then begin problem-solving together. Continue coaching as necessary. If the worker intended to fix a problem in one area but missed the problem created in another, help them see the bigger picture. Consider ways to fix the problem the employee identified and still have the positive outcome that you need. Be honest, direct and respectful when giving constructive feedback.
  • Acknowledge and encourage employees when they succeed in their new roles. Give specific praise for the actions and attitudes you’d like to see repeated, and praise positive outcomes. This will encourage employees to continue taking action and solving problems.
  • Be consistent. Constant change in direction and focus creates insecurity. If your vision is well-defined and well-known, employees feel confident and positive about how the company works. They will take more initiative themselves and will work to convince co-workers to follow the process, as well.

Empowering employees takes time and constant effort. But the payoff is big.

When employees feel empowered and are supplied with the tools and trust to succeed, they will push the company’s mission and values forward, creating customer interactions that align with the company’s goals, and lead to everyone’s success.