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Employee Hiring, Development, and Retention

Empower Your Team with this Simple Exercise

Mike Poskey | November 22, 2019

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A line of happy business people

There is a direct correlation between employee engagement and empowerment. Employees who feel empowered have a higher level of job satisfaction, which leads to better results and outcomes than those who do not feel empowered. As with trust, empowerment is built over time.

Don't play the fool and assume your team feels empowered. Take action to create and maintain a culture of empowerment.

Your Employees Want To Make an Impact

During the interview process and honeymoon period, your new employee is excited, engaged, and eager to be your next superstar. They can't wait to show you the impact they can make and want to use their skills and knowledge to do so. You hired them for the same reasons. You saw potential, confirmed they had the right skills and experience, and vetted them as a cultural fit. So why would you not let them do what they were hired to do?

The answer is empowerment. Trusting and empowering employees to do their jobs allows you as the leader to get out of the day-to-day churn and lead. If you don't let your team fulfill the responsibilities you hired them to carry out, why even have a team?

How Do I Empower My Team?

As a leader, it is your job to bring about empowerment by removing obstacles that prevent success. In fact, sometimes, even the leader can be the biggest obstacle! Get out of your team's way and follow these four key actions to help them feel more empowered.

Set Clear Expectations

This is perhaps the number one thing you must do to empower your team. Setting clear expectations gives your employees guidelines and boundaries. As long as they follow your expectations, let them do their job. Be very clear in your requests, and don't fall into the trap of assuming the team knows your standards. It's a good idea to check in on a regular basis to make sure everyone is reading from the same playbook.

Hire the Right People

Not every person is a good fit for empowerment. There are employees and managers who prefer to work in an environment where all decisions are made for them. If you want a culture of empowerment, you need to hire for it.

Learn To Delegate

Empowering someone means that you trust them with a certain level of authority to make a decision on their own. This is the best way to let your team shine. If you're not able to delegate and step out of the way, empowerment is out of the question.

Build Trust

Empowerment and trust go hand in hand. The more you empower your team and show them that you support the decisions they make, the more trust you will build. It's important to connect your words with actions so your team feels confident that they can make a decision without any negative backlash. If you don't agree with a particular decision, it's okay to use that as a coaching moment, but be sure to inspire and not demotivate.

Empowerment Exercise: The Decision Tree

A quick but very effective exercise you can do with your team is to go through the "Decision Tree Exercise."  

Decision Tree Exercise

  1. Work with your team to write up a list of common decisions they face that they typically come to you for approval.
  2. Categorize the list into the following type of decisions.
    1. Leaf decisions. Make a decision, act on it, no need to report back.
    2. Branch decisions. Make a decision, act on it, report back later.
    3. Trunk decisions. Make a decision, check with the manager before acting.
    4. Root decisions. Discuss with the manager before a decision is made.
  3. Review this exercise on a quarterly basis, and stick to it. Consistency is essential to empower your team to make decisions on their own.

Working through this exercise clarifies the leaf and branch decisions employees can make on their own. It also frees up more of your time to focus on strategic activities instead of approving actions that your team should be enabled to handle.

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