EmpowermentDo you need to control everything in your business? Are your people excessively reliant on you asking your permission for every tiny detail? How do you empower your people? Do you give them credit consistently?

Leadership of today is quite different from that of Caesar, Plato, the Wilhelminian time, or the post-war period. Today’s leaders utilize power-sharing, trust, team-building, and empowerment. It is important to think through what empowerment means and how best to employ it so your organization can harness its strength. Empowerment sounds great, but leadership is principally about the human dimension so nothing is always simple.

What is (psychological) empowerment?

Empowerment is made up of four aspects:

  • a sense of real meaning in one’s work,
  • a sense of making an impact through the contribution you make at work,
  • feeling competent about your capacity to do your work, and
  • a sense you have freedom to make choices that effect your work.

Empowerment is a means to include the team in decision-making, to give them a participatory role which capitalizes on their own expertise and judgment, and that increases their sense of both individual worth and commitment to the organization. When you empower your team, you motivate them to “row together”, and you increase the overall success of your mission. Empowering builds confidence in their capacity to execute your collective mission and goals, establishes essential trust in an organization, and creates the capacity to act – necessary when you are not present for key decisions so that the organization continues.

Please note that individuals actually empower themselves. This is what an April 2010 “Harvard Business Review” article emphasizes [https://hbr.org/2010/04/empowering-your-employees-to-e]. While this message may seem like semantics, it does point out the importance of an individual accepting and thriving with independence and authority. Empowerment is about getting someone to believe in his or her own decisions and abilities free from constant affirmation.

Why is empowerment important?

Business environments change rapidly today. There is a need to develop more empowered people in order to keep up with today‘s fast-paced fluctuating global environment. Yet, it can be difficult to break out of the leader-follower mindset. Individuals typically feel a stronger sense of ownership and worth when entrusted to make important decisions.

In order for organizations to remain adaptable to customer needs, staff must be given more authority and flexibility to make on-the-spot decisions. Research in the area of empowerment has revealed that increased empowerment produces greater organizational success factors. These factors include employee contribution, innovation, organizational commitment, expands latent talents, increases capacity to accept change, and increases staff retention.

How do you recognize an empowered team culture?

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.
Steve Jobs

This quote is the epitome of viewing your people as true business partners and not as subordinates to be bossed around. The key to leadership that empowers is trust. If we surround ourselves with smart people developing new ideas, then we need to trust our instincts and recognize that we have surrounded ourselves with them for a reason. That means sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zones and try new things.

Empowerment creates a healthy, positive and ultimately successful organization – one in which there is ownership of the organization’s vision and trust in the leadership. When a leader is successful in creating a culture of empowerment, each team member feels responsible to the team and part of the decision-making process. Each empowered individual senses a belonging to the team’s mission and will continue to make valuable contributions. The concept of “we are all in this together” permeates and a trusting workplace evolves.

What can you do to empower your people?

Embracing empowerment may run counter to the personality of some leaders. Once you are in charge of a team or an organization you may believe that your presence and your decisions alone are responsible for its success. You have worked hard and long to get to the top. You may think that your decisions to this point have made the principal difference in the success of your company. You can imagine that your individual efforts over a long time, from making comprehensive and hard hitting presentations, to writing a master plan about the future of your organization, to significantly increasing profit have been your benchmarks of personal accomplishment. Why do you need to empower others?

No one leads an organization to success on their own. It is the collective excellence of many that builds success. All of us lead based on the considerable work of everyone on the team who has labored, contributed, and committed to the same commonly stated goals. The higher you go in an organization the more you must – out of necessity – rely on the diverse talents and skill sets of those who make your team thrive, especially given the exponential change in today’s global landscape.

We also succeed as leaders because of the coaching, mentoring and empowerment of those whom we serve. All of us have been empowered at some point in our leadership development by enlightened senior leaders who saw our potential to lead at their level. They gave us the opportunity to take on major responsibility, underwrote our mistakes and continued to develop us to take their place in time. So the reasons for empowering our teams begin with the understanding of the pool of collective excellence in every organization that empowers the mission.

Test drive these empowerment techniques, and see what your team is really capable of:

  1. Share information with everyone. By informing everyone of the true issues, concerns and obstacles, nobody is left in the dark with a lack of knowledge. Host regular meetings with your team, and share with them the large happenings within your organization. Help your team understand the main goals that you are driving toward. Give them a rundown on how other divisions are performing. Everyone can then make decisions on an equal playing field.
  2. Offer skills training or mentoring to anyone who needs to improve to make stronger and wiser decisions. The worst thing a leader can do is telling their team to make an important decision without providing them with the skills, knowledge and strategies to be successful. Support the learning process by modeling appreciation of work well done publicly.
  3. Coach team members to develop self-confidence in making choices and forging direction. By helping others see their value and worth, leaders are developing future leaders, whom they will be able to rely on and collaborate with. Team members who possess positive self-images and confidence in the way they tackle challenges can add greatly to the performance of a team. Challenge your people and present them with new opportunities so they can demonstrate and achieve their full potential. Great things never came from comfort zones. However, make sure your people have a positive experience and their boundaries are being respected.
  4. Encourage others to assert themselves and share ideas so that all suggestions are offered and evaluated. If others feel that what they have to say will not be considered or valued, critical opinions will be overlooked. The result of missing analyzes can lead to a team not voting on the best choice, or even a misguided choice. Establish rules for constructive and respectful feedback and ensure they are followed (without babysitting or micromanaging them). Give them full authority to do the task or role with an open door for questions and suggestions. This way, they can continuously learn and grow professionally.

It’s not the tools you have faith in. Tools are just tools – they work or they don’t work. It’s the people you have faith in or not.
Steve Jobs

Empowerment is not a nice-to-have concept. It is essential to high performing teams and to the reinvention of organizations that is underway. Successful organizations that practice empowerment delegate and expect people to initiate, create and to feel ownership. With empowered employees, the organization, the customer, and the employee are all winners.

Coaching clarifies the way forward, holds people accountable, enables them to take responsibility for their own direction, opens up the way for greater communication, increases competence, and expands innovative opportunities. Contact us. We are happy to empower you.

Lead courageously, Annette.