Good leaders encourage employees or team members to achieve their goals. Great leaders empower team members to do so much more. Leadership is never about directing or managing people in a specific way. It is about creating an environment where people – those you lead – can truly be the best that they can be.
Empowering team members is easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean there are no practical tactics and tips that you can implement to get started. In this article, we are going to list some of the things you can do to empower employees in the workplace, and how these tips can be used to grow the organization as a whole.
Encouraging team members to learn and pick up new skills is a great way to start. Some organizations are starting to incentivize employees who return to school to pursue a degree, even when the degree is not directly related to their line of work. This is a step in the right direction.
An engineer could have aspirations to explore data science. A registered nurse might be interested in management programs or specific courses such as accelerated BSN programs from Baylor University. There are more universities offering these courses online too.
Online learning also has other benefits, including:
- Lower tuition fee
- Up to date program syllabus and courses in general
- Flexible learning schedules
- Accreditation and recognition
That last one is very important. Online courses are now viewed as being as valuable – if not more so – as their offline counterparts. More companies are encouraging their employees to take online courses, and you can too.
Maintain Open Communication
Promoting learning is just the start. As employees start growing personally, the business or organization is getting a lot of benefits in return. To amplify those benefits, however, team members need to be able to perform at their best, and the way to do that is by creating a work environment where open communication is encouraged.
Interestingly, the way to establish and maintain open communication is not by telling team members to communicate openly, but rather to listen and react in the right way when they do. You cannot expect team members to communicate openly when you scold them (or react in a bad way) when they have complaints or make suggestions.
This too is something that requires process; you cannot establish good communication overnight. However, there are several things you can do to speed things up.
- Create a space for open and friendly communication. Use the dedicated space to host one-on-one sessions and communicate with your team members well.
- Master the art of active listening and be prepared to keep an open mind when listening to input from others.
- Watch your body language and be gentle when making adjustments to the way others communicate.
- Establish and maintain transparency. Employees or team members need to know the full information to be open about what they think.
- Ask for feedback and actually listen to it. Once again, the act of listening is what will create an environment of open communication.
One thing to avoid is communicating too much or over-communicating. Some sensitive information still requires special handling, so filter what you say to maintain an environment of open and healthy communication.
Reward and Punishment
The most complex part of becoming a good leader and empowering others is being fair. We often resort to rewards and superficial things to get people motivated. Other times, we scold and punish without seeing the proportion of the mistakes and whether such punishment is warranted.
A clear and fair reward and punishment system is an essential component to have. Empowerment is not about rewarding people even when they don’t perform well enough. Empowerment is making sure that every team member knows the things that are expected from them.
As an added bonus, a good reward and punishment system is also the right foundation for better trust. That actually brings us to our next tip.
Earn Trust, Give Trust
We often hear the famous quote “trust is earned, not given,” and that works both ways. While your team members must show good performance to earn your trust, they too require you to show good leadership before they can trust you fully.
The dynamics between you and your team members matter here. The way you ask questions, make requests, praise achievements, and forgive mistakes – once proper rewards and punishments are given at those times – will affect how your team members react to your actions.
To earn the trust of your team members, you basically need several key skills and characteristics, which are:
- Consistency, especially in the way you make decisions
- Clear expectation and communication
- An open mind
As an added note, being open-minded as a leader is not a sign of weakness. The same is true with showing vulnerability. You can – and will – make mistakes, and taking suggestions and corrections from others is good for the entire team.
To end this article, we are going to discuss one more tip, but this is the most important tip of them all. That tip is: give autonomy. Yes, you are a leader and it is up to you to determine the direction of the team or even the business. However, team members may shine even brighter when they are given some room to be creative and make decisions of their own.
Give team members some degree of autonomy and see the positive changes in performance almost immediately. You benefit from this too; you no longer have to micro-manage everything, which means you can start focusing more on the big picture and strategic decision. Everyone wins.
That’s it! if you really want to empower employees – your team members – in the workplace, these are the tips and tricks to use to speed up the beginning of the process. You still have to work hard to maintain that healthy and productive work environment, but you have the support of your employees every step of the way.