How to Become an Empowering Leader (8 Actionable Steps)
The success (or failure) of a business rests on leadership's ability to guide and empower their team. But becoming an empowering leader isn't as easy as it seems. After all, there's a time and place to empower your staff and a time to take the reigns.
If you want to keep your business on the path to success, you need to know when and how to become an empowering leader. With the right strategy and mindset, you can continue to scale your growing business.
This guide will show you how to make that happen.
What Is Employee Empowerment?
Employee empowerment is a management strategy designed to increase the success of a business by delegating certain activities to individual employees and giving them the authority to complete tasks without constant oversight. This transition frees up management to focus on more critical areas while giving employees a more direct say in how a business functions.
Employee empowerment works when employees have the freedom to make important decisions and the support necessary to avoid making critical errors. They should be empowered to think freely while working within established guardrails set by management.
The Benefits of Empowering Leaders
There's a saying, "they call it a job because no one would do it for free." But, that's the last mindset you want your staff to have.
Instead, you want your employees to feel motivated at work. You also want them to feel like their contributions matter. And you want them to feel free to work in a way that will provide the best outcome.
There are a lot of reasons to empower your employees. Here are a few:
- Employees will care more about their work. When employees are empowered, they feel more in control. And that gives them a deeper connection to the work they do and the results they get.
- Employees will take more calculated risks. Because your employees will be more invested, they'll want to try new strategies that improve business operations and drive more growth.
- Workplace culture will improve. No one likes to feel like a cog in the wheel. The more people are invested, the less work feels like something that "has to get done" and more like something people can be a part of.
- Employees will be more creative. Empowered employees are more creative. They care about the work they do and are proud of the outcomes they create. That workplace environment is the perfect environment for enhanced creativity.
- Your business will perform better. Employees that feel connected to their jobs, care about the outcome of initiatives. They'll be ready to provide better feedback and help the organization avoid catastrophic errors.
Does Employee Empowerment Work?
If you're going to take the time to become an empowering leader, you need to know that your efforts won't be wasted. You also don't want to lead your business down a path of increased (and unnecessary) risks and liabilities.
After all, empowering employees should improve your business, not ruin it.
It's also important to note that while some jobs require more creative thinking than others to come up with unique solutions, this isn't always the case.
Still, just because a job has limited creative needs, doesn't mean that the business can't benefit from employees providing creative insights.
There's always a better way to way to run a business. And giving your employees the green light to think of better ways to streamline systems can reduce costs while increasing efficiencies. It's the perfect recipe to scale any growing business. So, at some level, you need to empower your employees, no matter what business you run.
Easier said than done.
But how exactly do you become an empowering leader?
You need a roadmap that helps you change your mindset and helps you create the necessary workplace culture for your employees to feel empowered.
This is how you make that happen.
Step 1. Create a Culture of Success
Appreciation goes a long, long way. And in the hustle and bustle of busy business lives, the power of a "thank you" can easily get overlooked.
In a 2018 survey, 89% of employees agreed that “performance-based recognition increases engagement.” And employees of companies that recognize success are 2x as likely to recommend their workplace to others.
Your first step toward becoming an empowering leader is to create a company that stops and takes the time to recognize success. You don't want a staff full of employees that simply "does the work". You want people doing work they're proud of doing, where they're excited to share the results.
But, don’t fake it.
General platitudes can often cheapen an employee’s success. Taking the time to be sincere and specific will go a long way toward recognizing the efforts of your employees. In turn, they’ll strive for future successes.
Failing to notice and appreciate success can backfire. It can leave employees feeling underappreciated. And that can stifle future creativity. Don't do it.
Step 2. Provide On-The-Job Training
Your employees need to grow through the work they do at your company. By educating them, you give them the skills they need to succeed.
As Richard Branson once tweeted:
Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to http://t.co/QHONOZYXEy— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) March 27, 2014
Knowledge is a great way to empower your team. Give them opportunities for career development and training they can use to help both themselves and your business grow.
Just be careful that the training you provide is in the interest of your employees.
No one enjoys feeling forced to learn something they feel as though they'll never use or never want to use. Instead, align your employees' goals with your business goals.
When people feel like they can grow with your company, they'll take more initiative to test their training and perform better.
Step 3. Stay Agile (And Open-Minded)
The market is always changing, so why should the way you run your business remain the same? It took a pandemic to convince the world that remote work was an acceptable, productive way to operate.
Every day, it seems, there are more and more applications out there designed to make our lives easier. You don't have to chase every trend, but you should be open to new ways of working.
Keep up-to-date on what's happening in other companies. Ask your employees what they value. And empower your employees to think of new ways to carry out tasks.
Take time to evaluate new ideas. And look for research to back up claims if you're on the fence. Sometimes, ideas that seem like they may lead to more productivity aren't (like open offices for instance).
Step 4. Make Work Meaningful
Do your employees know the value of their work? The larger a company gets, the easier it is to feel like a cog in a massive machine.
Your employees know the work has to get done, but they also need to know why. Helping them see the role the work they do plays in the overall company mission will empower their future successes.
They need to know the work they do matters, that it’s meaningful. Studies have even shown that employees are even willing to take a pay cut for a job that’s more meaningful.
You can't feel empowered if you feel like a "trained monkey" or robot could do your job. Employees with that mindset will be hard-pressed to find true value in anything they do. Connect the dots for them and show them that what they do matters.
Why You Need to Reduce Menial Tasks
No one wants to feel like the work they do is meaningless, and nothing is more meaningless than menial tasks.
The number of boring, repetitive tasks employees have to do on a given day depends on the job. But, in most cases, these tasks can often be automated.
Robots are great at the type of jobs people hate. So, let them do the work.
No one enjoys looking at spreadsheets, for instance. Transcribing data using spreadsheets is boring. The desire to space out until it's over is there.
But, most companies also leave valuable data in these spreadsheets. And that means your employees are stuck staring at them for hours, carefully making sure they don't make any costly data entry mistakes.
It's a nightmare.
Tasks like these are soul-draining. They turn work into a monotonous slog. And they zap any ounce of care your staff may have. Tasks like these eat up the time your staff could spend on more meaningful, empowering work.
Instead, streamline your workflows with automation and give your employees more time to do the high-level work they enjoy.
Let the robots handle the boring stuff.
Step 6. Provide the Right Resources
Figuring out what tools your staff needs to do their jobs can be tricky. On one end, this can create a laundry list of applications you need to consider onboarding. On the other end, you want to empower your staff by providing the tools they need to do the best job possible.
The key here is to take the time to listen to your employees and see where their pain points are. Then, look to see what solutions exist to help support them.
Every business has to work within its tech budget. Luckily, there are plenty of cost-effective tools that can not only streamline your business, but they can also drastically reduce costs and rapidly yield a high ROI.
In fact, many businesses can stay within budget and build the tools their employees need using low-code platforms.
The Power of Low-Code
Low-code gives employees more power by democratizing software development. Using platforms like Quickbase and Workato, your staff can quickly build custom applications that meet their specific needs.
And they can do it in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost of traditional application development.
Best of all, your employees can build the exact solutions they need for their precise problems. What better way to empower your staff than to give them the power to make their work lives more efficient?
They know the problems they face. They see the inefficiencies in workflows on a day-to-day basis. And they have ideas on how they would make it better.
Step 7. Know When to Take the Back Seat
One of the hardest parts about becoming an empowering leader is learning to let go. But, it's important to remember that you wouldn't be where you are today unless someone recognized your unique abilities and let you take the lead.
The key to becoming an empowering leader is to know where your leadership functions as a strategic asset and where it's more of a bottleneck. You have to be willing to let your employees take control.
Micromanage less. Trust your employees more.
Step 8. Reassure Your Staff
Empowerment means nothing if your employees are too scared to take risks or suggest changes. They need to know that your business embraces those who have ideas and suggest changes, even if they aren't successful.
Empower your employees by showing them that the only true failure is to continue working with broken systems. Coach them on how to suggest and deploy changes. And uses "failures" as an opportunity for team growth.
With the right guardrails, your staff will feel empowered to lead the creative way and suggest new, awesome solutions for your business.
When Is the Right Time to Be an Empowering Leader?
Employee empowerment is a tricky thing to implement. Not every task can or should be open to interpretation by your staff. You don't want a free-for-all. But, you also don't want an atmosphere where employees feel micromanaged constantly.
Instead, they need to have the freedom to carry out their jobs in ways that best match their skillsets, mindsets, and career goals. Empower them to do their best, and understand that people have limitations, different mindsets, and specific needs.
For example, you don't want to force an employee into a position of oversight if they'd prefer not to be a leader in that light. And you don't want to assume that your staff will value learning certain skills that fill gaps in your team.
This means that your management team will need to interact closely with employees to understand their strengths and weaknesses. You'll also want to know what employees hope to get out of working with you.
By communicating with your team, you can play to their strengths and match the mission of your business to the future of your employees.
When should you empower your employees and when you should take the reigns comes down to you. You know your business and your employees best. Build a path that ensures the success of both.
Become an Empowering Leader Today
At the end of the day, if you want to empower your employees, then you need to give them a strong foundation for future success. But that requires time and resources.
And that’s a challenge if your current workflows eat up most of your employees' time and your company's resources.
No one's going to have the time or energy to think up new ideas if they're stuck running around looking for documents or digging through endless pages of spreadsheets.
Break down inefficiencies with affordable, custom solutions.
Quandary Consulting Group leverages the power of Quick Base and Workato to help organizations optimize workflows.
See how we've helped our clients improve their businesses and get insane ROIs by checking out our case studies below.