Small business leadership: Empowerment

empowermentStaff members who are empowered are more likely to be engaged in promoting the mission, vision, and values of your business. Empowering others means you will provide the knowledge, clear instruction, training, and opportunity for others to perform. This includes giving them permission to devise their own approach and act on it as long as it meets the overall goals you have defined for them. Empowering others means you give up some level of control to get the best of what others have to offer. For this reason alone empowerment is not as easy as it sounds.

Business leaders often have trouble relinquishing control. The motivation to do so must be clear and of great value. The success of your business has often been built on your own sweat and sacrifice. Letting others take over can be difficult. However, it is worth it. They make you better. They make your business more successful.

It is important to remember empowerment is a first step in developing others. Developing staff to their full potential can and will yield great rewards. Involving others and encouraging them to take ownership instills a sense of pride that can translate into better performances and positive outcomes. Every person on your team has something unique to offer. Taking advantage of this means you serve your own needs, your customers, and theirs.

To reap the full benefit of empowering others you, the leader, must do your part to ensure they are ready and willing to accept the challenge. You will also need to monitor progress along the way in order to get the highest level of benefit for all stakeholders. Here are a few tips to help you practice your empowerment skills and realize success:

  1. Choose the right employees. Every employee can be empowered to some level. Choosing the right employee for the task, project, or role is your job. Be sure they are capable and willing.
  2. Make sure they have the tools and resources they need to succeed. Having the right tools to do the job is critical to maximizing the success of the project. Start the practice of empowerment by having them identify what they will need to succeed. If you agree, provide it. If you do not agree, take the opportunity to develop negotiation skills and come to an agreement on what is needed.
  3. Provide training. If the role or project requires training be sure it is provided. “Train as you go” or “train on your own” is often a recipe for lost time and mistakes.
  4. Be clear on your vision for the company and on the goals of specific projects. Your job as leader is to clearly define the vision you have for your business and share it with all key stakeholders. This includes anyone you have empowered to contribute to the success of that vision and any goals that are a part of that vision.
  5. Clearly define roles and authority. Let your employees know where their role and authority begins and ends. Once this is established, back away and let them perform inside the boundaries you have set.
  6. Keep the lines of communication open. It would be uncommon for questions not to arise in any new role, responsibility, or project. Be clear on the best way to communicate questions and what to expect from you regarding responses. Comply with your agreements. Make it easy for them to get the answers they need.
  7. Hold them accountable to the agreed upon dates, deliverables, and outcomes. Give your employees the responsibility of reporting back to you on specific dates and deadlines or when specific milestones have been reached or missed. Mark your calendar to be sure they comply but be careful not to micromanage the schedule.
  8. Inspect the results. Make adjustments to the goals. Take the time needed to review the outcomes and performance and make adjustments that are aligned with the vision and goals to reach that vision.
  9. Reward results. Reward the results you wanted and avoid rewarding missed goals and outcomes. Rewards do not have to be monetary. They can be public recognition, more responsibility or expanded authority.
  10. Create a safe place to make mistakes. While we always hope everything will go just right the first time it is not uncommon for missteps and mistakes to occur. Make it safe for those to happen and work with your employees to make adjustments.

My philosophy is this: The best way to build a world class team is to surround yourself with people who can challenge, inspire and yes, even replace you. These should be people that fill your “gaps.” People who make you stronger as a team and better as a leader. Do not be afraid to be challenged. Empower those around you and reap the benefits for everyone.

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