What does the word empower mean to you? As an individual it might conjure up feelings of freedom, control, authority, ownership. To be empowered means to be an agent, a person who has the power to act. Empowerment, or autonomy, is one of author Daniel Pink’s three key ingredients to intrinsic motivation. When each of us feels a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose at work, we bring our best selves everyday and thrive.
But, as a manager, the word empower can be much more ferocious. From a manager’s perspective, empower means one thing—chaos. It means losing control, taking on risk, exposing the ego, relying on others but being accountable for results. Dilbert accurately describes what empowerment typically means to a manager:
Leaders and managers don’t publicly fear empowerment; like in Dilbert, they often advocate for the right and authority for employees to make decisions and feel ownership. The word empower is easy to say, hard to act on, and easy to misinterpret. We in Communications can help make this fluffy word translate into concrete actions.
Here are 10 of the 20 tips for empowerment that GlaxoSmithKline’s CPSE group provides its managers to help them get into new habits that empower their teams. Use them in your day-to-day, share them with your managers, take a look around the organization and ask yourself if you see leaders and managers behaving in this way. For the full set of 20, visit the CEC website.
10 Ways to Empower Your Team
Open up Decision-Making
1. Clarify extent of decision-making authority without manager approval.
2. When leading a meeting, get everyone else’s opinion before expressing your own.
3. Reward and recognize employees who act in an empowered way.
4. Paint an exciting vision of the future to help employees develop their own plans to achieve the vision.
Clearly Define Expectations
5. Spend more time at the beginning of a project to determine its scope and goals.
6. Ensure that each individual on your team understands what they are accountable for.
Support Risk Taking
7. Do not penalize mistakes; create opportunities for individuals to share what they’ve learned.
8. Share problems and challenges transparently to create a sense of team unity and support.
9. Encourage your team to take a dialogue or personality assessment, and then share results with the team.
10. Embed time in project planning for idea sharing and feedback from the team (not just the manager).
Empowerment may sound wishy-washy, but it can carry huge weight when backed up by the actions of leaders at your company. Communications, in partnership with HR, can work with leaders and managers to build a culture of action by way of empowering employees. To really start a transformation within your organization, I’d recommend facilitating a conversation among leaders to determine what empowerment looks like in action. Agree to a set of behaviors that foster empowerment and think about what those actions will help employees do differently and help the business to achieve.
Visit the CEC site to get the full 20 Ways to Empower Your Team, inspired by GlaxoSmithKline’s CPSE group.
CEC Related Resources:
- Leadership Communication that Empowers: GSK CPSE’s Empowerment Workshop for Leaders
- Line Manager Communications Topic Center
- Manager Dialogue Online Training Module
- Dialogue Workshop for Leaders
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