As appeared in Innovation Ocala magazine, August 2013.
Harvard Business Review’s Marshall Goldsmith discusses four steps leaders can take in order to empower their employees. Employee empowerment is nothing new. In fact, it is discussed in many circles and more often then not, empowerment is discussed alongside its antitheses, micro-management. But the heart of the matter is organizational culture!
How many times do you as a business (non-profit for for-profit) leader encourage and allow empowerment? Is it difficult to do so because of employee or volunteer competency levels? Or are you as the leader stifling empowerment through your organization’s culture?
Marshall points out, “People have to empower themselves. Your role [as a leader] is to encourage and support the decision-making environment, and to give employees the tools and knowledge they need to make and act upon their own decisions.” In other words, you have to create a company culture!
It is important to recognize that the struggle many experience with empowering people is most often not a lack of competency. It is almost always related to the culture surrounding the leader. The atmosphere the leader exudes.
Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing and a leader that stresses the importance of intentionality states, that whenever a leader empowers, the leader needs to make it clear as to what level of authority is being conferred. Hyatt suggests five levels:
- Level 1: Do exactly what I have asked you to do. Don’t deviate from my instructions. I have already researched the options and determined what I want you to do.
- Level 2: Research the topic and report back. We will discuss it, and then I will make the decision and tell you what I want you to do.
- Level 3: Research the topic, outline the options, and make a recommendation. Give me the pros and cons of each option, but tell me what you think we should do. If I agree with your decision, I will authorize you to move forward.
- Level 4: Make a decision and then tell me what you did. I trust you to do the research, make the best decision you can, and then keep me in the loop. I don’t want to be surprised by someone else.
- Level 5: Make whatever decision you think is best. No need to report back. I trust you completely. I know you will follow through. You have my full support.
[Tweet “The greatest force of empowerment is trust.”] Team members need to know that their leader has their back. via @ansleyRDgroup Leaders need to know that their team can deliver.
So what are the four steps Goldsmith suggested? Expanding on Hyatt’s model, here are four things leaders can do to build an environment that empowers people.
- Give power to those who have demonstrated the capacity to handle the responsibility.
- Create a favorable environment in which people are encouraged to grow their skills.
- Don’t second-guess others’ decisions and ideas unless it’s absolutely necessary. This only undermines their confidence and keeps them from sharing future ideas with you.
- Give people discretion and autonomy over their tasks and resources.
What’s next? Consider how will you inspire those you lead. Hopefully, it is by giving them the chance to prove they are up to the task!