Me: ‘I need some help around here’
Also me: ‘No, not like that…here, I’ll do it!’
I had to laugh out loud when I came across this on my Instagram feed a few months ago. It reminded me of my younger self and several other people came to mind who just can’t help themselves! They get impatient watching other people trying to figure something out and rather do it themselves than showing them how it’s done. Who comes to your mind? Yourself? Your mum? Your boss?
Whilst being a social media meme, it shows the typical trap many leaders fall into: back delegating. I have seen it many times in my professional career and as a leadership coach.
I was working with a management consultant who was new to his team of account managers. He struggled with his workload and felt his team members weren’t taken on enough responsibility. ‘I feel like I constantly have to step in and do their work’ he said to me. So we unpacked what was happening and after some candid conversations with his team and reflecting on their feedback, he realised that it wasn’t his team that wasn’t performing, he didn’t empower them to be able to perform.
He was vague in his communication when giving them new projects with no clear guidelines or outcomes, crucial information was missing, and they felt he didn’t trust them as he would suddenly take over half-way through the project. It was so bad that one of team members left to work for the competition and the rest of team was demotivated and disengaged.
Empowerment creates engagement and engagement drives performance.
Leaders all over the world are busy (re)structuring their teams and organisations in a quest to create work arrangements that guarantee productivity and performance. I see a focus on flexible workspace set-ups, maximising supply chain solutions, digitalisation projects and client delivery. What’s missing is getting employees involved. There is a real danger, especially in distributed teams, for team member engagement to drop because they don’t feel included, valued or empowered.
“Highly engaged employees make customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.” – Timothy R. Clark
People are asking for trust and empowerment as their main drivers for an engaged workforce. In a recent employee study by talent mobility platform Topia the majority of respondents stated that empowerment and trust were the most important factors for a ‘great employee experience’ vs. 16% saw a ‘cool looking’ office space as a priority.
Empowering employees means we provide them with the opportunity, authority, resources and motivation to do their work. Empowering also means we hold them accountable, give them feedback and develop them to improve. Check out my past blog about how to hold people accountable:
What are the benefits of empowered employees?
Empowerment affects individuals, teams and the organisation. When people feel they are empowered, they take pride in what they do, work harder to achieve goals and are engaged with others. And high team member engagement has long been identified as the main driver of organisational performance.
What empowered work cultures look like:
- Trust. When employees are ‘given the power’ to make decisions and held accountable for their actions, it creates trust with the manager and management. People feel their expertise, work and effort is valued. Delegating decisions, especially big ones, require the leader to trust the team member and ‘take a risk’. There is nothing more empowering than being trusted with something that’s meaningful and important.
- Productivity. Empowered people work hard to get things done. They feel responsible and have a sense of pride to finish the job. In fact, a recent Forbes article says that empowered employees are 67% more willing to put in extra effort on the job.
- Performance. Empowerment is not just about delivering work, it’s about having a seat at the table, being heard and having responsibility to deliver. A Forbes survey showed that employees who feel their voice heard are 5 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
- Collaboration. Empowered employees collaborate more with members of their team as well as across departments. When people feel empowered, they are open for new ideas, seek help and involve others. It’s not hard to see how this fosters team member engagement.
- Change. Empowerment enables employees to embrace change. They feel they are part of leading change and an integral part of creating the future. I see this first-hand with many organisations empowering their people to drive digital transformation.
- Retention. People who are happy and engaged will stay. Empowering people has a direct impact on high retention rates. People are also more likely to advocate for your company to attract new talent.
Trust and empowerment really are two sides of the same coin. Trust is the foundation for empowerment and empowerment cultivates trust.
Steps to empower people:
Don’t let empowerment just be another buzz work in your organisation. Make it front and centre of your leadership development and part of your work culture. Empowerment increases engagement and engagement is measurable. Equip leaders on every level with the skills to empower people and make it the DNA of your company culture.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team” — Phil Jackson
If you want to work with me, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org