"The ultimate use of power is to empower others."- William Glasser
"If you have power, you have to empower." - Kanye West
"Leaders are those who empower others." - Bill Gates
If you empower others you don’t disempower yourself. This should not be a selfish, defensive thing where I’m thinking, “They may do a better job than me and make me look bad. They will look good and get promoted over me.”
If you allow your staff to do their work, if you give them the resources with which to do it, if you give them an environment that is stimulating and fun and if you can give them the work that they enjoy doing…then they will do a better job than if they don’t have these things.
In other words, if you empower your team members to do a good job, you enable them to do a great job!
And, in the process, they will make you look great too!
There is some overlap with work and responsibility delegation - see my short article.
Similarly there is cross-over with supporting your team - see my short article.
Empowering people starts on the first day they start working with you. The new employee should be given all the things they need to work efficiently and effectively within the organisation. If your organisation has a Human Resources section then they should go through the “onboarding” process. Any specialist training that is needed should be completed.
Empowering people is saying to them that you have confidence in them and that you trust them.
However, it’s a risk – as a manager you must be sure they have the ability, experience, confidence and training to do the work you propose giving them.
At first they may need plenty of guidance and a clear explanation of what is required of them. Goal setting is a good way of making sure both the new staff member and I have a common understanding and agreement of the task. I like SMARTER goals and you can read my article 7 Steps to SMARTER Goal Setting.
Empowering someone may mean giving them access to material which is commercial-in-confidence, safety or security sensitive, or personal data.
The task will take a certain amount of time to complete. For a newly empowered person it will probably take longer than for an experienced person the first time, as they grow their knowledge, experience, expertise and confidence. They may use different techniques to the way it has been done hitherto or they may have innovative ideas about the task as they come at it with a fresh pair of eyes.
Bear in mind that they may make mistakes which take time and more resources to rectify.
Once the person feels empowered and confident that they can do the work and that they have your trust there is a risk of over-confidence. The issue here will be that non-company messages are going out – setting policy and precedent on the run can be a problem. Customers or stakeholders may realise that there is a lack of standardisation among the staff and call different people “shopping around” for the answer they want.
People who feel empowered have greater loyalty, greater motivation for their work, they have buy-in to decisions they have taken and are invested in the success of the organisation.
This article is just my view of the topic at title. Like a lot of people, I’ve done some training in management techniques but there is no substitute for experience. In my case, a bit of trial and error, learning from my mistakes, watching other managers and a little common sense. I hope you found it of interest and assistance.
Peter Cromarty is a former air traffic controller and pilot. He spent 27 years as a safety regulator of ATM/CNS, airspace and aerodromes.
View his Linked In profile.