The credo of an empowering manager is to create a work environment in which people are empowered, productive, contributing, and happy. Instead of hobbling employees by limiting their tools or information, trust them to do the right thing, get out of their way, and then watch them catch fire.
These are the ten most important principles for managing people in a way that reinforces employee empowerment, accomplishment, and contribution.
Your regard for people needs to shine through in all of your actions and words, including your facial expression, body language, and the words you choose to express what you’re thinking about in regards to the people who report to you.
Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person’s unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on his or her current task, your value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.
When possible, involve employees in goal setting and planning. At the very least, involve those who report to you in goal setting on the department level and share the most important goals and direction for your group.
With the help of your employees, make progress on goals (measurable and observable), or clarify that you have shared your picture of a positive outcome with the people responsible for accomplishing the results.
If you share a picture of where you’re headed—and share the meaning behind the goals and direction of the business—empowered employees can then chart their own course without close supervision.
Trust the intentions of people to do the right thing, make the right decisions, and make choices that (while maybe not exactly what you would decide) still work. When employees receive clear expectations from their manager, they relax. This allows them to focus their energy on accomplishing results, not on worrying and second-guessing.
Make certain that you have given people all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions. If that’s not doable, make sure that those working under you have access to the information they need to do their job most productively.
Don’t just delegate the drudge work. You need to make work enjoyable, so be sure to delegate some of the fun stuff and assignments that you know a person is interested in. Some of the fun, interesting work you can delegate includes important meetings, committee memberships that influence product development and decision making, and the projects that people and customers notice.
Provide frequent feedback so that people know how they are doing, both in terms of meeting expectations and where they need improvement. Ideally, there should be a mix of feedback that’s reward and recognition as well as improvement coaching, with an emphasis on recognition.
When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the people to fail, not what is wrong with the person who had difficulty with the task. If you determine it is the individual, not the system, try to resolve the problem with the employee first, before heading to HR.
Provide a space in which people will feel free to communicate by listening to them and then asking them questions. Guide them by asking questions, not by telling them what to do, like you would a child. People generally know the right answers if they are given the opportunity to comfortably express themselves.
When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, “what do you think you should do to solve this problem?” Or, ask, “what action steps do you recommend?”
Eventually, you will feel comfortable telling the employee that he or she does not need not ask you about similar situations.
If employees feel under-compensated, under-titled for the responsibilities they take on, under-noticed, under-praised, and under-appreciated, they will not experience employee empowerment.
The basic needs of employees must be met before employees can give you their discretionary energy—that extra effort that people voluntarily invest in their work. For successful employee empowerment to come into play, recognition must play a significant and ongoing role.