As a manager or leader, do you give your employees more responsibility when they are able? Do you know when that is, or do you keep telling yourself that they aren’t ready yet?
When I visit organizations and delve into their dynamics to get to the root of their perceived issues, I often hear that individuals at all levels of the company who want to be treated as “partners” rather than as employees. They want information to flow up as well as down. But, oftentimes, leaders do not want or know how to give up control.
My client, Joan, couldn’t understand why her company was experiencing a high turnover, and why her employees didn’t respect her. We developed a system to anonymously obtain feedback from her employees. The response was eye-opening. The major lesson learned from the feedback was that her employees felt that she was too stubborn and opinionated. They felt she was a know-it-all and didn’t welcome any other ideas. Joan learned that she needed to do a better job of letting others make decisions, and she needed to focus less on being right herself.
One of the strategies she agreed to try out for one month was this simple technique: before speaking, she would take a breath and ask herself, “Is it worth it?” She learned that 50% of the time her comments may have been right on, but they weren’t worth it.
Part of building an empowering environment is providing an ongoing discussion of the needs, opportunities, tasks, obstacles, projects, what is working and what is not working. These discussions build employees’ capacity for decision-making, and build your trust in their abilities to do so.
How can leaders build an environment that empowers their employees?
Give power to those who have demonstrated the capacity to handle the responsibility.
Create a favorable environment in which people are encouraged to grow their skills.
Don’t second-guess others’ decisions and ideas unless it’s absolutely necessary. This only undermines their confidence and keeps them from sharing future ideas with you.
Do be curious about what is going well, their challenges, and how they are making choices to move the work forward. Provide the support they need, while leaving them in the driver’s seat.
Give people discretion and independence over their tasks and resources.
Successful leaders and managers exercise their leadership in such a way that their employees (at all levels) are empowered to make decisions, share information, and try new things. Most employees (who, let’s face it are future leaders) are eager to be empowered to take on responsibilities and want the freedom to find new, better ways to accomplish the tasks at hand.
Great leaders and managers recognize the value of honing an individual's skills: for the personal and professional growth of each person, and for the growth of the company. A bonus is that the manager is able to delegate more responsibility, easing the burden of his or her own job.
If future leaders have the willingness and appreciation to learn from the experience of present leaders, and if present leaders have the willingness to build an environment that empowers others, both will share in the benefits.
There are many more things that leaders can do to build an environment that empowers people. If you are unsure where to start or how to execute your empowerment ideas, contact Joy today. She helps individuals and teams educate, empower and execute!