Empowerment practices are no longer a choice for the C-Suite. The benefits of an empowerment culture are huge, especially when teams are working remotely, and it is not only an HR job. CFO’s can measure empowerment benefits through cost reductions and increased sales due to innovation, employee engagement and better customer service, among others. Developing these three skills will help your leaders empower their teams more effectively.
Empowerment is about improving self-management and empowering others to take action. Strengthening employees’ autonomy and empowerment to decide how to work makes it easier for employees to work remotely and also makes it easier for leaders to manage their teams.
It means giving (someone) the authority or power to do something, which is not simply delegating. While delegating implies commitment from the leader (because you still own the task), empowerment implies more commitment from the leader in the planning stage and less at the delivery stage, as the associate takes ownership.
In many cases, leaders say they do the work because if they have to explain, it will take longer, or simply because they can do it better. The problem is that this belief limit leaders to do only what their time allows them to do. Empowerment, on the other hand, enables leaders to work through other people. Besides, when the right level is empowered, it enables faster decision making, increases ownership, problem-resolution and a more customer-oriented approach.
The leader’s job to drive empowerment is to work on himself, work at the team level, and work at the organizational level. These three skills need to be developed.
1) Delegate and stop micro-managing:
Change how you lead. Instead of keeping ownership of the tasks, encourage associates to own the tasks. Usually, empowering is confused with delegation. Leaders want to “delegate better”. The problem is that leaders understand that they need to delegate more things
The focus must be on how not be the owner of the task in the first place. Like in the Scrum method, there is a product owner or facilitator who writes down the list f all the tasks that need to be accomplished and prioritizes what needs to be done and what can wait. Then the team members choose which task to accomplish based on the knowledge, experience and availability.
Instead of regularly checking in on your employees, define clear goals, deadlines, and updates. Start trusting that your employees can do their work successfully while remote without constant oversight.
2) Define Team routines:
Work at the team level. Create an environment, face to face or online, with specific tools and routines where people feel safe to provide updates, offer ideas and ask for support. Build a system where they can set up the goals employees defined in the previous step. Team routines can be meetings, awards, communications, project management, problem-solving, decision making etc. For example, defining how a meeting should be held helps to maintain aspects of the company culture:
• Team meetings will be held once a day
• Stand-up meetings no longer than 15 minutes
• Agendas will be sent two days before the meeting
• No side conversations
• Agree to share concerns openly
• The consensus is the process for all key team decisions
• Use the company purpose and core values as a decision filter
• Action items will have owners and a timeline and will be written on the whiteboard to review next day
3) Encourage self-organization:
Work at the organizational level so that team members don’t depend on you. Make it more a pull system where they ask for help, not a push where you tell what to do and when.
The people closest to the customer have to be empowered to make choices about how they spend their time, improve processes, serve the customer better etc. Self-organization is key to ensure employees respect the company rules, even when “nobody is looking”, that’s why it’s so important in remote teams. They need to know what their responsibilities are and commit to them.
Even though employee will start making lots of decisions about how they work, they will have to follow through the agreements that were made at the beginning, like goals, responsibilities and core values. Leaders will still be available to follow-up on recurring meetings or assist closely when someone is not able to meet the agreements.
All team members must be able to work in an empowerment culture, it’s just a matter of believing in the system, practicing it in every situation and adjust it together to make it work for the particular organization. Empowerment is different based on the industry and the company culture. What are the practices to empower teams that work best in your company?