Why empowering your team is good for you
We hear a lot nowadays about the importance of ‘empowering’ our employees, but how does a business owner or manager actually do that?
Some might reject the idea outright because they think it means giving up their authority. Others might go overboard burdening team members with what are actually the responsibilities of ownership.
It’s important to find the balance because when a business owner or manager gets empowerment right, it can lead to increased productivity, higher morale, more engaged employees and a more manageable workload for yourself.
Empowering employees involves some sharing of authority and responsibility with team members who can handle it. It plays a vital role in developing the talent in your organisation, engaging employees in your business and increasing their satisfaction by giving their jobs more depth and scope.
However, you can’t just throw team members in the deep end. You have to be prepared, especially at the beginning, to mentor and actively develop employees so that they are, in all fairness, well-equipped to handle the additional challenges and demands of having more power.
This investment in your staff’s development is well worth your time and effort. Before long, you will find yourself with more time to focus on the development of your business instead of the day to day details. It’s also an important leadership and management learning curve for you.
Here are some tips to getting started on empowering your team to guide you:
- Reflect on the tasks that you currently take on, on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It can help to list them. Reflect also on the tasks that should be done in the business, but aren’t happening effectively and efficiently, and list these too.
- Analyse these lists of tasks and start to think about which of them could be assigned to others. You need to ensure that tasks are within a team member’s capabilities or know that you can support them in performing these tasks effectively over time. Assess well whether assigning additional tasks might overburden an employee and compromise the quality of what they already do.
- Involve the team member in your decision to assign additional tasks to them. Explain why you think they can handle it and set the scene for them as to how this enhances their development, both personally and within the business. Make sure that the outcomes you expect are crystal clear. It also helps to show an employee how their work on these new tasks impacts positively on the business.
- As part of your mentoring, discuss the execution of the task with the employee in detail. Invite their questions and respond in an open and encouraging manner. Describe how you will be available to support them in undertaking the task.
- Engage the team member in conversation about how the task is currently accomplished and ask them for their ideas. This is the practice of an important leadership skill where you are open to new innovations and efficiencies arising in your business. Employees often have a lot of good and useful ideas that good managers and leaders frequently tap into.
- You can’t assign a task without also giving the team member the relevant authority that they must have to execute the task. You need to set them up for success. If they need access to funds, company resources or authority over other employees, you need to grant this while making the reasonable limits of their authority clear. It might feel risky to you, but you need to find the ways to give your people the opportunities to prove themselves if you want them to help grow your business.
- There’s no room for vagueness in this process of empowerment. Limits must be specific, milestones must be exact and deadlines clearly agreed. You need to monitor and manage the timelines proactively, until you are sure the team member has the confidence, clarity and determination to deliver.
- Make sure that they understand their priorities. Rank the new task in the context of their existing duties and confirm that they understand how much time and effort you expect from them on the task in relation to what they usually need to deliver.
- Be flexible so that employees have enough room to perform the task their way if that’s how they believe they will deliver the best outcome. This is a vital part of a learning, innovative business. Sometimes there are important reasons for a task to be executed according to a particular way, but many times it’s the outcome and not the process that is most important. Encourage experimentation and learning from mistakes because this a fundamental way that businesses grow.
- Empower your team member with full access to information about the task and the tools they need to perform it. Set the task in the context of how its execution fits into the big picture of the business.
- On an on-going basis, encourage reflection in your business by soliciting insights and ideas from your team members as they take on new duties. This ignites learning in your business at deeper levels.
Of course, empowering employees involves some risk. However, it is important to make space for mistakes as they bring the greatest learning on both an individual and organisational basis.
You can’t do everything, as the leader you need to ensure that you have enough time and energy to keep focused on the strategic growth of your business. That means you need to also try things out, trust, make room for mistakes and foster learning and growth through your power to empower others.