5 tips for empowering people

An empowered workforce delivers excellent results.

Six words that roll easily off the tongue, we know that they mean, but what do empowered teams look like, and how do we get one?

As a leader it is easy to succumb to the pressures of your role. It is particularly easy to jump in and micromanage the problems that you see affecting your deliverables.

Have you ever considered however, that by doing this, you may inadvertently be discouraging your team from achieving their potential and in doing so limiting your chances of fostering the empowered workforce that delivers excellent results?

Here are 5 tips that will help make your teams feel empowered to step up and unleash their potential.

Tip #1 – Make sure they have all the information they need

You have more information than those in your teams, you understand the strategic direction and core values of the organisation, and how individuals are expected to operate and behave in accordance with those values.

You also understand how all your teams ‘fit’ together at the highest level.

Individuals and teams who understand where the organisation is heading, how it plans to get there and how they contribute to that journey, have a far greater chance of maximising their individual and team potential.

Tip #2 – Encourage open communication

Many organisations believe that sending emails or newsletters to keep staff ‘in the loop’ ticks the communication box. Not so if you want to develop empowered individuals and teams.

Most people want to be around inspirational leaders, and learn from them, so be visible and talk to your staff, not just the ones that report to you, but those that report to them and the level below that.

Invite your staff to give you constructive feedback and then act on it if you can. This will filter down and result in an environment where people feel safe to discuss things and build relationships. Promote communication outside of the constraints dictated by an organisational structure so people develop the networks that achieve outcomes.

Tip #3 – Create an environment where staff can innovate

Not only do you need to have an environment where people feel safe to communicate ideas openly, you need an environment conducive to people feeling safe to try new things: ideas, approaches, processes without anyone correcting them prior to execution.

Bosses who constantly step in and correct staff or worse, changing something to be the way they would do it themselves will invariably foster individuals who will become unable to function without prior approval or may hold off trying new things altogether.

Providing opportunities for employees to stretch themselves in an environment that will not expose the organisation to great risk will encourage agility and innovation that will undoubtedly result in greater outcomes for them and you.

Create ‘safe failure’, by ensuring that innovative projects have appropriate check points or milestones and make sure that feedback, if required, is given in a ‘coaching’ style, that enables the individual to work through the issue themselves rather than the answer being provided by you.

Tip #4 – Hold people to account

There are many examples of holding people to account; for outcomes of their project, for decisions they make running the ‘business as usual’, but it is my experience that the biggest contributor to the debilitation of teams occurs when someone is not being held accountable for their behaviour or actions.

One of the most powerful things you can do as a leader is hold someone to account, particularly if the issue is regarding behaviour.

If a staff member is not behaving consistently with the values of your organization, that individual must be told. No if’s, no buts, they must be told.

If they cannot work within agreed values it may be that they need to be moved on. Sometimes a team is better off without an individual even if they are the one with all the technical knowledge. Such knowledge can be gained in other areas, using other people.

A team will not respect a leader who does not walk the talk, nor will they respect a leader who does not require their team to walk the talk.

Tip #5 – Value them

This one is obvious right?

As children we are told to say thank you to people if they do something for us, the boys in my son’s rugby team, and the kids in my daughters soccer team jump all over each other when someone scores a goal. Adult soccer and rugby teams do the same come to think of it.

I realise that not all of us are in a position to jump around the office, with our shirts over our heads and our arms in the air, but surely we can muster a ‘thank you’ or a ‘well done’.

Showing people how much you value them has been proven to be more effective than financial reward when it comes to staff retention.

So fostering an empowered team is easy really, tell people how they contribute to the greater goal, talk to them, encourage them to try new things and thank them for their contribution. If they cannot work to these principles, then consider your options.

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