How To Empower People

OK but firstly, why bother?

You have two choices with people who work for you.

Choice 1

Empower your team. They will grow, become happier and more useful, allowing you to do bigger and better things, and in so doing you become happier and more useful too.  It’s a win-win. Everyone achieves more of their potential.

Choice 2

Don’t empower your team. They will not grow, become less happy and less useful and will resent you because you have institutionalised them. You will not get the chance to do bigger and better things and you may develop an illusion of indispensability which is just another way of chaining yourself to your current role with no means of escape. It’s a lose-lose.

I imagine you’re finding Choice 1 a wee bit more appealing.

So, how to bring about this fabulous state of empowerment? There are a few things to think about…

Structure

Is the organisation set up to facilitate or hinder success? There’s no point in being customer intimate if everyone works in silos with an internal focus. There’s no point in pursuing a differentiation strategy and slashing the development budget.

Skills

The fact is that on-the-job training, whilst important, is often a very slow way to half-learn how to do something badly. Skills training and coaching is the fast-track to competence and through that confidence.

Systems

Internal and external. Get the critical business systems right so that people can work effectively and efficiently. Marketing systems that work; CRM systems that work. Accounting systems, key account management systems. It’s endess. Almost everything is or should be seen as a system. This is not suffocating, it’s liberating because it allows people to spend their time improving systems and giving more value through their creativity and initiative rather than re-inventing the wheel every day.

Managers

Make sure the bosses are not disempowering staff through control freakery, failure to delegate, and all the other crimes of the poorly training or badly managed manager.

Management is of course getting things done through other people. Management is not about setting yourself up as the charismatic mega-being; the only one who can do things; the indispensible super-achiever, surrounded by a team of barely sentient worker bees who, after training, might be able to carry your bags. I exaggerate to make a point, but I’m sure you might recognise this type of manager…

Joint Goal Setting

Staff should set their own goals. There needs to be iteration of course as some will play a game and some will genuinely underestimate their abilities, but let them take the lead. Then they have more ownership and motivation and a primal need to deliver what they said they would.

Delegate

The essence of management. People have jobs because tasks have been permanently delegated in the past. That’s how organisations come into being and grow. From a people development point of view, delegation is like human growth hormone. How’s that for an analogy!? I’m quite pleased with that one.

Share Information

Information is not power. Empowered teams with information is power.

Show Confidence

Show confidence in your team. Not wild “you can do anything” nonsense. More a quiet, positive, supportive “I can help you be even better”.

So that’s empowerment. An overused “buzzword” that is seldom unpicked and understood sufficiently to allow positive action can be taken.

Once you empower your team you become more empowered yourself. What goes around comes around. How good is that?

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