When I was in my first job in corporate America, I had a one-of-a-kind manager. The first thing he did when meeting with me was to ask me what I wanted to become and what my vision of my future career looked like. I really hadn’t given it much thought, and so I candidly told him so. Always abounding in patience, he began by asking me a series of well-thought out questions that made me think. My responses to those questions revealed more to me than I had previously considered. He was obviously prepared and wanted me to craft a plan that was my plan and not just something he wanted to impose upon me. Once we had crafted my plan, he helped me set both short-term and long-term milestones for the accomplishment of that plan.
Empowering your people allows you to help them to be responsible for their development and learning. It also significantly increases their engagement in their work because of their commitment to its achievement and it helps them feel your support and encouragement in their development.
Here are 10 strategies that you might want to consider and implement to empower your people.
1. Link to company vision. There are many examples of studies that have been done where leaders ask employees if they know how what they do contributes to the overall success of their organization. Sometimes as high as 95% of the interviewees have expressed that they do not know how what they do contributes to the company’s success. Taking the time to create a vision with others improves motivation because it establishes value for the individual’s contribution.
2. Set clear boundaries. When you provide clear boundaries and parameters for completion, you allow individuals the latitude to plan their work and make their own decisions. Once the boundaries are established, let them accomplish their work in the manner in which they see fit and don’t fret if it is not the way that you would go about doing a particular task. What is important is the end result, not the path for achieving the result.
3. Balance direction and support. Your people won’t feel empowered if you provide them with an exhaustive list of detailed steps to follow or accomplish which doesn’t allow for creativity or initiative. Explore how much direction they might need by asking questions and listening to their responses. You will need to determine how much coaching and mentoring they may need. Whatever you do, don’t micromanage their efforts. Offer your support where they think they might need assistance and be available to answer any questions that might arise along the way.
4. Delegate the entire project. People will feel more empowered if they are responsible for or “own” something. You may need to explore with them where they think they may need additional assistance. Once you have identified a deficiency, then help them develop a plan that will help them succeed. Allow them “to bake the cake” rather than just “stir the batter.” This will also force you to consider the scope of the projects that you assign an individual and to determine when and where they might need help.
5. Allow autonomy. When things start to go wrong, we have a tendency to rescue those who may be struggling. Essentially you may find it easier to just take over and do what needs to be done to complete a project. Resist the temptation to fix their work or take it away from them entirely. This also necessitates your keeping tabs on their progress so that important deadlines will not be missed. However it might be helpful to determine how you might do this so you don’t come off as micromanaging their efforts.
6. Provide encouragement. When your people do a great job, tell them, and encourage them to do more of the same. When their results are less than desirable, turn the situation into a learning opportunity rather than a blame session. People usually know when they are not performing in a way that provides the desired results. You want to create a culture where individuals learn from their mistakes. You might have to identify the difference between acceptable and unacceptable mistakes, but that is also a learning opportunity for them. Encourage your people to learn quickly and then to not make the same mistake again.
7. Allow opportunities to learn and demonstrate skills. Sometimes the organization in which you work may not be able to provide increased financial incentives or advancement opportunities. If this is the case, then be sure that you give individuals increased learning opportunities either through training or taking on tasks that will allow them to develop new skills that they can demonstrate in the completion of their work. Taking the time to do this will enhance individuals’ confidence while increasing their capacity to take on more difficult assignments and develop their professional and leadership skills.
8. Foster collaboration. Encourage them to work with others that they can learn from, especially from you. Sometimes the gift of your time is one of the greatest gifts you can give. They will come to appreciate your interest in them and their growth and development. Working with others will also provide them with a wider variety of ideas and experiences that are necessary to their development.
9. Hold REAL Conversations. Effective conversations take time. It is important to ask questions that make people think and to explore their perspective on the topic at hand. It is also critical that you listen intently, clarify what is important to them, and demonstrate your understanding. Because your management and leadership is contingent upon effective interaction, don’t underestimate the power you have for creating respect and trust based on the way you treat others in the completion of their work.
10. Celebrate successes. When individuals take initiative, come up with great ideas, solve pressing problems, work long hours to get the job done, and establish rewarding and profitable relationships with your customers, you absolutely need to recognize their successes in a way that is meaningful to them. This requires that you know them well enough to celebrate their success in a manner that is rewarding and fulfilling to them, not in a way that might be uncomfortable or disrespectful to them. Leave yourself out of the celebration and make it all about them.
There are many opportunities to empower the people with whom you work and who work for you. If you take the time to make a deliberate plan for empowering others and execute those plans, your efforts will pay huge dividends to the success of others, yourself, and your organization.
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