Elisabet Hearn and I wrote this article for 2020visionleader.com
Following on from part 1 of SET THEM FREE, let us dive a bit deeper into the topic of empowerment at work.
As discussed earlier, empowerment is a major factor for employees delivering great customer experiences.
But as also mentioned last time, there are a few other reasons why it’s so important, let’s look at them in more detail.
KNOWLEDGE WORK NEEDS EMPOWERMENT
More and more companies are coming to the realisation that employees need the freedom to think for themselves, in order to find solutions to new problems. They need people’s creative, original, critical thinking.
This may impact how, where and when the work gets done. Not everyone does their best thinking at the same time and place. And it’s sometimes while not working that those important ‘aha’ moments are had, when thoughts fall into place and connect with each other to provide the solution you may have been looking for.
People often describe having their best and most creative thoughts about work while doing other things, like when they are out walking or when they are relaxing away from a work environment .
This all means that for so called ‘knowledge jobs’, we truly need to hire people based on their thinking capability and need to create the work setup that allows them to be at their best – individually and as part of a team – because collaborative behaviours matter greatly too.
As a leader, you need to balance individual and collective empowerment. As we often highlight, collaboration and collective intelligence is a necessity, we can achieve so much more when we bring all the clever minds and hearts together than when simply working independently side by side.
Accepting and appreciating diversity is realising that not everyone does their best thinking at the same time and place so we need to be able to flex and adapt to allow for that. Acknowledge that different styles create more innovative thinking.
And as output and outcomes are the guides for empowerment and autonomy, they also need to be expressed at a team level. What is it that the team are expected to deliver together? And therefore, how does the empowered work setup need to look? Applying the principle of empowerment, get your team to explore and decide together how that needs to look.
When it comes to great teams, thinking through how to use synchronous and asynchronous communication is important. With different timezones people won’t be available at the same time for example. How team communication is supposed to work needs to be carefully mapped out and agreed as part of the Team Charter. (for an example of a how to build a Team Charter, please check our book “Leading Teams 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions”. And having this kind of clarity drawn up and agreed in a Team Charter is particularly important when working remotely.
REMOTE WORK REQUIRES EMPOWERMENT
It’s not practical nor desirable (on anyone’s part) to micromanage people who work remotely, certainly not on an ongoing basis after initial setup. From an employee’s perspective it can feel like you’re not being trusted, which is severely demotivating. And from a leader’s perspective, it is time-consuming and demoralising, and doesn’t allow people to take full responsibility.
We also need to dial up our trust in people. Ask yourself: what will make you fully trust someone to work in an empowered fashion? What needs to be in place? How will you communicate and follow up? And how can you do that while showing trust? How do you get your team members to take the lead and the ownership of keeping you up to date?
Effective empowerment should include building trust and finding ways to increase trust.
We are always working on increasing trust in our relationships at work and within our teams. There is a direct correlation between your behaviour as a leader and the level of trust with the people around you.
TO BUILD TRUST, HERE ARE SOME RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Encourage your team members to talk, by listening and showing interest
- Disclosure breeds disclosure which leads to greater openness, so show courage and share more
- Spend time getting to know each other, showing empathy while getting to know each other changes the relationships and opens up dialogue, a dialogue that might not have happened otherwise
- Keep promises. Promise is an emotional word and hits you at an emotional level. There is nothing as powerful as a promise kept, being trustworthy. And a promise broken breaks trust. Either way it affects trust at the core level
To be empowering to others you need to feel empowered. There is a chain reaction with empowerment, what you feel and think about your own empowerment comes out in your behaviours and inspires others or demotivates them, depending on your behaviour.
How empowered do you feel and what level of empowerment are you creating? Whatever it is make a commitment to turn up the dial on empowerment right now. It will have a big impact.