Why Leadership Must Empower Team Members and How to Do It
Bosses and leaders may have many similarities, but they are quite different from each other. Though every leader can be a boss, not every boss can be a leader. So what separates leaders from bosses? Easy: it’s their leadership style. A boss manages, delegates, and expects results. A leader, on the other hand, innovates, inspires, teaches, and is committed to empowering team members.
The idea of empowering team members in businesses and organizations is nothing new. However, many fail to do it for different reasons. In most cases, it is because the organization is led by a boss, not a leader.
Leadership through empowering team members
Empowering your team means giving them the permission to make decisions on their own and take actions within the organization. Sounds easy, but it takes a lot of work as this means establishing trust and understanding in line with the organizations’ values and goals.
You can learn a lot about leadership through empowerment from the military. The US Army for example, defines leadership through empowerment as “influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.” Retired naval officer, podcaster, and American author Jocko Willink said “A leader must lead, but also be ready to follow. They must be aggressive, but not overbearing. Calm, but not robotic. Confident, but not cocky.”
True growth of a business or company comes from the result of multiple people working together for the same goal. And that requires empowerment of each and every member of the team.
In his article in The Globe and Mail, Andrew Atkins said, “Companies with high levels of trust and empowerment are more than 2.5 times more likely to be revenue leaders in their industries than others.”
But how do you empower team members?
Empowering team members is a culture
Building an empowerment culture is no easy task. It requires thoughtful and proactive leadership, open communication and trust among each member of the organization, appropriate infrastructure of mechanism and accountability, stout and continuing member engagement.
Here are some steps and strategies on how to build the culture of empowerment in your organization:
Develop by delegating
While it is easy to delegate tasks among your team members, people often fail to use it as an opportunity to empower and strengthen the team. Rather than just giving away to-do lists, delegate tasks with the intention of developing and cultivating your members’ capabilities, skills, and responsibilities.
Delegating tasks, especially for big and important projects, gives your team a good sense of value within your organization. Take note of your high-performing members and assign them with big tasks that you think will challenge them and bring out the best out of them. Make them leaders on these tasks. This gives them an opportunity to shine and eases your workload.
Show them that you trust them by giving them authority without checking back on them for every detail.
Give your team autonomy over their tasks
Different folks, different strokes. This means each individual has his own way of doing and finishing things. Your way may be different from their ways, but that doesn’t mean yours is any better.
When you delegate tasks, you should also hand over control. Refrain from micromanaging your team and understand that your way is not the only way to get things done.
Set expectations clearly
Outline the boundaries where your team is free to act. Set your expectations clearly (of course, without micromanaging) and give your team the freedom and responsibility to make decisions that are in line with the company’s goals.
Provide all essential and helpful resources
You cannot expect your problems to magically go away, or things to automatically sort themselves out, by simply letting your employees work on them without giving them all the necessary resources. Provide tools and ideas that you believe are necessary to get things done.
Give positive feedback, criticize constructively
A good leader recognizes the good deeds of his or her employee. This is extremely important, especially when someone takes a leadership role and is successful.
Similarly, be specific on the feedback you deliver. Simply telling them “great job” doesn’t steer them in the right direction on what to do in the future. Guide your employee to help them find the right solutions; point out the good and bad, and provide alternatives that you believe could improve their performance.
Mentor your team
Do not just teach your team members to do what you think is right, or tell them the steps to quickly complete the tasks. Empowering team members require coaching and mentoring.
Coaching and mentoring is extremely important for a positive work environment. It brings the best out of people.
Mentoring means working with them to make good decisions; this comes after you help them develop their skills and solve problems.
Build real and authentic connections with your employees, practice humility, and use humor to make them feel at ease. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, and help them improve on areas they need to work on.
Similarly, assign tasks that you know could optimize each team member’s capabilities. This will help them feel valuable and competent.
Make sure you explain clearly why you assign them certain tasks and let them know you believe in their capabilities.
Encourage open communication
When communicating your ideas and goals about certain projects, make sure you hear what your team member has to say as well. Make sure they feel comfortable in expressing their ideas and thoughts. Encourage them to brainstorm and think outside the box. Similarly, commend them for their feedback and opinions.
Be open to other ideas
Include your team in decision-making and goal-setting processes whenever possible. Getting them involved in the preliminary process is a good way to empower team members. Be open to hearing their input and ideas. This can open your organization to new ideas that could catapult your way to more success.
Recognize their hard work
Make sure you always show appreciation for each of your team member’s hard work, especially if they do a good job. If possible, reward their success through incentives or bonuses, especially if they go above and beyond to complete the assigned task. This will further encourage your team to continue being innovative and taking actions.
Having a good empowerment culture in your organization is a win-win for you and your team. While you can certainly achieve certain things with direct management – sustainable growth and continued success comes from empowered team members.