What is empowerment? It’s the authority and permission to act. To empower your team, therefore, is to free them to do their job unencumbered. Of course, there are some boundaries and restrictions, but they should be applied conservatively to keep tasks on track without stifling productivity.
Empowerment leads to a culture of shared responsibility where everyone is working towards a common goal. When they’re empowered, team members are often inspired to bring forward ideas and solutions. This is in strong opposition to old, top-down management styles.
But how do you empower your team? Are there practical steps that can stop employees from being too reliant on their managers? Yes. You can help empower your team, and develop self-directed teams through training and trust. It’s the mark of great leadership to develop the potential of those around you, so stop micromanaging and follow these tips.
To begin with, it’s recommended to restructure your team to work as a self-directed unit. These teams are mostly like any team that’s created to tackle a task or project. They are unique, though, in that they are not managed from the top down, like in a traditional managerial hierarchy.
Self-directed teams stress collaboration, and therefore those on the team are chosen because they complement one another and promote cross-function. These teams are assembled usually for a specific task or initiative, and they’re made up of individuals with different skills who are working together for a common goal.
As Jennifer Bridges notes in a tutorial video on setting up self-directed teams, these teams help each other grow by contributing not only their skills, but also their experience, so others can learn from that experience. This happens through constant communication among team members through collaboration software and regular meetings.
The end result is that this process helps elevate the group and, in doing so, their ability to work more productively, as they act as their own project manager to a large extent.
What Helps Empower Team Members?
Once you have a structured environment that facilitates empowerment of the team, you’ll want to drill down and make sure that each team member has certain qualities that will help them help the team.
The first and most obvious of these is shared responsibility. When each member takes responsibility for a specific aspect of the project, then they will feel ownership for that work, but also understand how they are connected to the overall project. Their work isn’t done in isolation but as an integral part of the whole.
This empowers everyone in the team and makes them do their best, for they’re not working for their own glory but are part of a larger, more important picture.
There is also the need to trust the other members of the team. The interdependence that is crucial to empowering the team is built on the trust that each team member is not slacking off but working diligently to hold up their own end of the project. This promotes an internal harmony among the team that not merely empowers them but makes their work more efficient.
To fully empower the team means that you must let them make decisions on their own. Without the ability to act with authority on those aspects of the project that they’re expert on is not power, and it will backfire on you.
Teams know when what they’re told isn’t in alignment with what they can do. While a manager will have oversight, there are dozens of decisions inherent in every task and the manager must relinquish themselves from many of those approval processes to truly empower their team.
The secret to empowering teams is that while they have authority and can act autonomously, they are united in working towards a common goal. This is the glue that holds together what might seem like, from a managerial view, an unruly team. All the separate parts are cognizant of their common goal and are always working with that single destination in mind.
What Can Managers Do to Help?
Empowering teams doesn’t mean letting go of the reigns and just letting team members go off on their own accord. Yes, you’re freeing them to work better together, but you’re not absent from the scene. You’re fostering their empowerment through trust and the following techniques.
Include Them in Important Discussions
For one, you want to include them in the decision-making process. Not only do you free them to make decisions on the task level but you seek conversations about larger, more strategic questions about the project. Remember, the team was assembled for their expertise and experience. Plus, they’re on the front lines of the project, and therefore their input will prove insightful.
Again, an empowered team is your greatest resource. You can gleam much from their closeness to the project, and they should always be sought to offer their ideas about solutions. Not only can they help with the success of the project because of their perspective, but by including them in such discussions you’re making them understand their importance to the success of the project, creating buy-in.
Provide Positive Feedback
Empowerment isn’t a one-shot cure-all; it must be nurtured to grow and flourish. To do that, you’ll want to provide the team with positive feedback. It’s easy to ignore small wins in a stressful project where you’re constantly moving from one task to the next. But, the dividends on taking a moment to reward, or just acknowledge, a job well-done are important for building an empowered team.
Give Them Authority
To further empower the team, give them more authority, stretch their capabilities and develop leaders. This gives team members authority, which in turn adds to their sense of value to the project and fuels further empowerment. Help team members grow by assigning tasks that are challenging, and set up training to further their development.
Be a Mentor
Don’t just be a manager; be a mentor to your team. Instead of giving orders, coach the team, and lead them to act independently. Help them reach their potential. This can be at work and in their personal life. While this might sound like so much New Age nonsense, by helping them achieve their goals, you’re helping the whole team, project and organization by retaining talent and maximizing productivity.
If empowering teams is giving them the space to excel, there’s one more thing you can do to further that development. Give them the right tools to communicate and collaborate. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that has real-time data and a platform that allows team members to work collaboratively. See how it can help you help your team by taking this free 30-day trial.