Empower Your Team to Be Leaders
Empowerment is the creation of a motivational climate that releases power, resources, and responsibility to each team member to foster maximum involvement, commitment, and desired results. No matter how ambitious, talented, or self-disciplined you are, at some point it becomes necessary to involve other people in achieving results and building effective productivity. Empowerment is the means for accomplishing these goals. Empowerment extends productivity beyond the organisational skill and knowledge of one person; it is the art of enabling others to take action.
Empowerment is an essential building block in win-win, interdependent human relationships, regardless of your position and responsibilities. Allow others to make more decisions, and they bring more commitment to any corporate endeavor. Impart a degree of ownership to others, and they become involved in your vision and action plan. This is true in sales, education, customer service, management, manufacturing, and any other field. Empowerment allows anyone striving for personal and professional productivity to move forward.
Because it is the essence of true leadership and influence, empowerment achieves results and progress through the commitment and involvement of others. In the past, only leaders were allowed to control information flow and decision-making, taking full credit for results. Today, however, it is widely recognised that all team members can make valuable contributions and share in both credit and responsibility for outcomes. Empower those who are in the best position to take action by giving them the direction, knowledge, and authority they need. Handled correctly, empowerment multiplies your efforts as well as your vision and goals. Communicate your respect to your team members, through delegating some of your traditional authority and power to them.
Empowerment takes many shapes and forms: self-directed work teams, asking for ideas, turning over leadership of meetings, delegation of training responsibilities, flexitime policies, surveys, cross training, and other methods encouraging participation. These strategies are tools for empowerment.
Recognise the expertise of all team members and unleash their creativity. In today’s diverse, internationalised, information culture, top-down autocratic control is obsolete; mutual respect, reasonable delegation of authority, and mutual commitment to organisational goals are the hallmarks of an effective organisation.
Give employees the responsibility to adapt, respond, and take advantage of opportunities. Experimentation and innovation must occur regularly to keep up with a world characterised by information and technology change. Consumers increasingly demand instantaneous service, faultless quality, and low prices. To address these demands, train team members in more than procedures; help them to understand the spirit and missions of their work. Even temporary workers need information and training to function as empowered, dynamic team members.
Tapping into the existing values and vision of team members is the key to nurturing accountability and commitment of the team. The story is told of a traveler who visited a stone quarry and asked three of the workers what they were doing.
“Can’t you see?” said the first one irritably. “I’m cutting a stone.” The second replied, “I’m earning a living.” But the third put down his pick and thrust out his chest proudly. “I’m building a cathedral,” he said. How people view their work makes a significant impact on long-term productivity. All workers perform and respond to change best when they are accomplishing goals that matter to them. A synergistic, empowered, and productive team consists of individuals who envision their input as meaningful and significant.
The Benefits of Empowerment
High quality service is one of the significant results of an empowered team. Because empowered team members are well-informed, well-trained, and vested with the necessary authority, they are able to seek ways to satisfy customers without being forced to wade through mountains of bureaucracy and red tape. Empowerment can be the spark of progress, with many tangible and intangible benefits, including:
Retention of creative, skilled people as they participate and share in the success of the group,
Logical, reasonable policy and decision making based on information from diverse sources in the organisation,
High-caliber information flow as people know their ideas are solicited, respected, and acted upon,
Decreased waste and inefficiency as people closest to situations take initiative,
Ideas captured in time to respond to market needs,
Unique competitive advantages derived from maximising the talents of all individuals in the organisation,
Increased high payoff time for upper management, and
Improved morale as group members enjoy belonging and becoming emotionally and intellectually involved in projects.
Initiating the process of achievement through empowerment can take longer than imposing an agenda upon others. But strict, top-down control fails to fully use the potential of individuals. As a result, team members show only short-lived effectiveness, along with little or no responsiveness or adaptability to outside events. In contrast, once people experience the fulfilment that comes through empowerment and involvement, they are eager to adapt and make full use of their potential. They recognise the many personal benefits they reap as the organisation succeeds and their responsibility and effectiveness expand through empowerment.
Effective delegation attitudes can be taught and learned. Because of people’s diverse backgrounds, these attitudes come more naturally and are more easily understood by some people than by others. When desire is present, however, any attitude or personality trait can eventually be developed. Continually observe leaders around you, glean ideas from books and articles, make a conscious decision to infuse your thought processes with positive ideas and belief in others, and encourage appropriate team behaviour. Here are several actions you can use regularly to set the stage for an empowered delegation environment:
• Think and talk in terms of “we,” not just “me.”
• Recognise that mistakes are part of the learning process.
• Replace the word “failure” with other words in your vocabulary: mistake, learning experience, or test.
• Know your personal strengths and limits.
• Set healthy boundaries for your personal time and involvement based on your personal goals.
• Rotate leadership responsibility for meetings and projects when appropriate.
• Include all contributors’ names on reports, memos, and other communication.
• Constantly communicate and repeat your reason for working together.
• Be available for others; at the same time, encourage resourcefulness and creativity. Effective delegation gives the message: “Do whatever it takes; you have the talent!”