“I am the type of manager who is most comfortable giving direction to my team members. I am very good in my field, and I believe that my knowledge has gotten me promoted to management positions. Therefore, I need to keep directing them since I’m the expert and highest in authority. But lately, I’m hearing more and more about empowerment to create engagement. What is it and how do I do it?”
This thought process is a common one for many of today’s managers. We simply do not know how to empower others. To empower is to give over power and authority to someone else; to enable others. What are the first steps to move towards becoming an empowering leader? Let’s look at the definition and determine a few steps.
Give over power and authority to someone else
Wow, that would be pretty significant. Many managers consider their position alone to be one of power. They believe that in order to keep that power, they need to make all of the decisions and be “in charge.” You can still be a very powerful leader and “in charge” while empowering the people on your team.
Consider what each person’s responsibilities are. For each person, stretch yourself to identify the decisions that they bring to you, which they can make by themselves without your involvement. You will probably be surprised at how many decisions there are!
Let others take decisions independently
The manufacturing floor is a good example where continuous improvement and employee empowerment is taking hold. In an organization where I worked, teams were formed in the plant. These teams were called employee involvement teams because they were empowered to make a number of decisions that would normally be cascaded back up to the plant manager.
The plant found inefficiencies and demotivation when that happened. With continuous improvement and empowered teams, the teams challenged themselves to look for better ways of working, knowing that they could carry their own ideas forward many times.
As managers we sometimes lose sight of the decisions that we can let go and give to others to make. For your team, identify as many types of decisions that can be made at the individual or team level without you. Create some structure or guidelines around it, communicate with your teams and get their input, then try it out, even on a small scale.
Enable others and offer your support
There are strengths to being a hands-on manager. There are times when our involvement at the detailed level is needed. Our ability to be able to dive in can be important to resolving critical issues. Our teams respect us more if they know that we can roll our sleeves up and get into the work just as they can.
The danger of getting too hands-on is that we could become a micromanager. When this happens, we are disabling the people around us. We insist on doing things our way and we insist on getting involved in every aspect of the work. Enabling others means letting go. It means accepting that our team members may have different ways of going about the work, and it may not be the way that we would do it. But it may be a better solution.
People come to work wanting to feel valued. In almost every employee satisfaction and employee engagement survey I have seen, one of the top priorities for employees is working for an organization that makes them feel valued. Every time someone is enabled to work to their potential and try new approaches, they are feeling more valued.
Try enabling others with small steps at a time by becoming less involved in the day-to-day work of your team members. Focus on your own leadership objectives and less on day-to-day management. Enable others to do the work.
By taking just few steps, you will begin empowering others and will move towards becoming an empowering leader. You will likely be amazed at the results that you see in productivity, efficiency, and engagement.
About The Guest Author: Susan Cucuzza is executive coach and founder of Live Forward LLC. She coaches executives in leadership style and effectiveness. Susan has led HR programs nationally and internationally in Fortune 500 companies for over 15 years, with special focus on leadership and talent development.