By Paula Brown Stafford and Lisa T. Grimes
“The role of leaders is not to get other people to follow them but to empower others to lead.” – Bill George
We hear the word “empowerment” a lot. We want to empower our leaders; we want to empower our followers; we want to empower women. And yes, we find it very important as leaders to empower our followers, and though we often talk about it, we don’t really know how to truly empower others through action. It’s all well and good to give a big pep talk in a meeting, but did it really empower anyone? Today, we are going to share with you a few things we believe are critical if we want to empower our employees through action and example.
Give your team a reason to care about their work beyond a paycheck. Marketing consultant and speaker, Simon Sinek, says “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” The same is true with employees. When people understand the “why” and believe they are contributing to something greater than themselves, they become invested and eager to work hard and solve problems. Overall, we become more productive. Develop one clear vision for your team. Have everyone write it down and place it where they see it every day. Let that vision be the driving force of your team, especially when hard obstacles or less-than-exciting tasks come along.
Goals are what drive your team towards vision fulfillment. First, explain the project, then set up goals to achieve it. This is even better when you have your team determine their goals. Delegate. Give them greater responsibility and trust them to reach those goals. When our team comes together and sets goals, it not only brings the team closer but also gets the job done faster.
The most important element to empowering your team is to always have open and clear communication. Often, big problems start out as little mistakes that someone did not bring forward. Well, that small mistake will eventually hit the fan, and it will do much more damage and will be much harder to clean up than if it was handled right away. The best way we have found to keep situations like this from happening is to let your followers know they can come to you by setting an example of clear and honest communication. Be completely open with your team. When you make a mistake, own up to it and then present a possible solution. Let honesty be one of your core values, and your followers will be more honest with you.
Don’t Wait to have the Tough Conversations
When a teammate makes a mistake, hold them accountable for their actions. Don’t be afraid to have the tough conversations. Let people know what you expect of them, and they will often honor you for it. Better yet, if you share vision, set goals, and communicate clearly, then they will most likely go beyond when you expect.
When your followers see that you care and value their skills and contributions to the team, they will be empowered to succeed. Good leaders create other good leaders from their followers. Give people responsibility to create vision and set goals. Be honest with your team, especially when things go wrong. Finally, hold others accountable by having tough conversations. In the end, you set your team environment to be a culture of trust and empowerment.