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As an employee, one of the most frustrating things to experience is a lack of control and autonomy at work.
Having to ask for constant permission from a manager is demoralizing and frustrating. Trust between leaders and team members begins to crumble. Employees can feel undervalued and that they are not reaching their full potential.
But with the right team empowerment approach, leaders can give their team the support they need.
Here are the best practices for managers and leaders to empower their teams at work.
What is team empowerment at work?
Team empowerment at work happens when a group of employees has the responsibility and authority to make decisions.
Instead of waiting for a manager to issue instructions or approve requests, an empowered team organizes itself around a leader. Despite that self-organization, every member of the self-managed team plays a role in making group decisions.
Empowered teams are often cross-disciplined and based around specific projects. For example, a team may be empowered to:
- Conduct an audit
- Amend or create new company policies
- Develop a new service or product
There are three types of empowered teams:
- Work unit teams work together daily, focusing on their unit’s primary output.
- Project teams, such as a new product development team, are cross-disciplinary. They’re usually composed of employees from finance, manufacturing, marketing, and other departments.
- Total customer satisfaction teams focus on business as well as customer issues. These teams are selected after a particular problem that requires a solution is identified. The teams usually disband after resolving the issue.
Why is group empowerment important, and what are its benefits?
Empowerment is linked to job satisfaction, employee retention, and commitment to the company. There are also links between psychological empowerment and good task performance.
Team empowerment in the workplace is important for another reason — it addresses a real need.
A 2019 Employee Engagement Report revealed that 33% of employees feel undervalued at work. The report also found that employee loyalty is decreasing.
43% of workers would be willing to leave their companies for just a 10% salary increase. They said that weak company cultures are to blame.
Luckily, the right team empowerment strategies can address these issues. Let’s take a look at some of the most important benefits of group empowerment.
The improved morale that happens when you offer leadership and empowerment to a group leads to a greater sense of accountability.
Each member of the team knows senior management is confident in their abilities. That confidence inspires them to make decisions and perform their relevant tasks to the best of their abilities.
The team is happy to be accountable for the project’s successes, and it faces up to the responsibilities if the project fails.
Efficient problem resolution
Getting better at solving problems is another benefit of team empowerment.
Empowered teams have the confidence they need to tackle issues they face. Instead of feeling uncomfortable or wishing the problem would go away, they face it head-on. And that’s the first step for efficient problem-solving.
If a cross-disciplinary team isn’t empowered, issues arise. They have to get authorization from the right managers. Or they might have to wait a long time for a supervisor to make a decision.
This can all take a frustrating amount of time.
Empowered groups can solve problems much faster. They’re aware that if they put their heads together, they have the skills to solve problems themselves.
How to empower others at work: 7 strategies for your team
No single strategy is the final word on how to empower others at work. Try implementing several or all the following strategies to empower your employee teams.
1. Support the team’s empowerment
Support team empowerment by supplying employees with what they need to do their job. This means giving them the opportunities and resources needed to complete a project or another task.
Avoid micromanaging. Be clear about the final expectation rather than the means of achieving it.
Give them the items they need, as well as the authority to implement procedures themselves.
2. Clarify vision and roles
Empower the group by ensuring everyone understands the team’s goals and vision. Let each member know why you selected them for the team and define their role clearly.
Once everyone understands the expectations and their roles, then you can let them get on with the job.
For example, if you selected specific employees because of their ability to crunch numbers, let them know.
3. Encourage open and honest feedback
One aspect of team empowerment consists of changing the leadership-team dynamic from one of a top-down hierarchy to a dialogue.
Show you mean it by encouraging open and honest feedback from each team member and from the group collectively. Listen attentively and respectfully to their feedback and concerns and provide feedback of your own.
For example, schedule a weekly meeting with the group as an opportunity for updates and feedback.
4. Institute an open-door policy
Support the team’s empowerment by instituting an open-door policy in your office.
Having an open-door policy establishes an environment of trust and mutual respect. Employees knowing that they have someone to turn to and that their voice is heard is important for a positive work culture.
Instead of telling group members that you’re approachable or your office door is open, show them. Literally leave the door open. This should encourage them to approach you with feedback or concerns at any time.
5. Motivate self-improvement
Enhance group empowerment by encouraging each member toward holistic self-improvement.
Appointing them to the team probably gave them a boost of self-confidence. It showed you are confident in their abilities.
Even so, there’s always room for improvement.
Motive the group members to learn new skills that will benefit them, the group, and the company. This will encourage them to strive for growth in other areas of their lives too.
For example, offer them the option to work remotely. This can give them time for other commitments, such as working on their physical well-being.
6. Forgive their mistakes
Support team empowerment by forgiving mistakes and failures. The group members aren’t likely to feel empowered if they’re afraid of leadership whose first response is anger.
Forgiving the team’s mistakes will enhance their sense of confidence in you. Plus, it will encourage them to continue taking risks and making their own decisions instead of playing it safe.
7. Show appreciation for their contribution
Acknowledging and appreciating the team’s efforts is one of the keys to leadership through empowerment.
Yes, the work is expected of them, and yes, they get paid to do it. However, when you empowered them, you encouraged them to put something of themselves into it. Remember that.
Give credit where it’s due.
For example, have pizzas and thank-you cards delivered to the team after they unveil a flawless product design.
5 facts to consider to make team empowerment work
Team empowerment will not work if the following factors are absent:
Trust is the foundation of leadership and empowerment. Senior management appointed you to a leadership position. It’s because they trust you are the best person for the job.
You appointed employees to the group and empowered them to do what they need to do because you trust in their capabilities.
If you do not trust your employees, any talk of empowerment goes out the window. You wouldn’t be likely to leave them to get on with their work. Instead, you’d probably micromanage them.
Similarly, your team needs to trust and respect you.
As a leader it’s important to understand the difference between power versus influence. When you use influence to lead, you’ll build deeper trust and loyalty with your team.
Transparency and trust go hand-in-hand.
Both are essential for the open communication that’s needed for group empowerment at work. Team members will feel assured that nothing is being hidden from them if you provide transparency.
The team will know that it is an integral part of the company’s workforce if you keep them informed. Always update them on changes that affect them and include them in the decision-making process.
Transparency on your part will also encourage open communication on theirs.
The importance of communication in team empowerment at work is impossible to overemphasize. The lines should be open and communication clear from the outset.
IBM found that 72% of its employees don’t understand the company’s strategy clearly.
Communicate the team’s purpose and each member’s role. Communicate the company’s vision, and offer 360 degree feedback regularly. You should also ask for feedback in return.
Don’t limit your communication to talking shop.
Include the human element by introducing or making space for small talk. Ask them about their interests or hobbies outside of work. Talk to them about the well-being of their families.
Communication isn’t limited to expressing or communicating ideas and information. It also involves listening.
Hone your listening skills. This way, you truly hear what is being said before giving an emotional knee-jerk reaction.
4. Flexibility and openness to new ideas
A boss who is inflexible and closed to new ideas will not succeed. They won’t empower groups or individuals at work.
There is an element of delegation involved in team empowerment. If you delegate some authority to a group, then you should be flexible.
Be open enough to accept that they will complete the project in their own way.
Group empowerment demonstrates the truth of the saying, “Two heads are better than one.” An individual may become so set in their ways that no alternatives get considered.
Among several people working on a project, two might come up with a new, more efficient way of doing something.
5. Recognition and appreciation
Employee recognition and appreciation are other recurring themes when empowering others at work.
This reinforces their sense of individual and collective empowerment.
A field experiment by Harvard Business Review highlighted this concept.
In this experiment, thank-you cards were publicly handed to the top three performers in various groups. After, it found that overall group performance improved after acknowledgment.
Take leadership through team empowerment
A company cannot thrive if its employees are not engaged. If employees don’t feel empowered, they’re less likely to feel engaged at work.
Empowerment is a proven way to engage employees. Take leadership through empowerment by giving your employees the resources, responsibility, and authority they need to do their best.
Get in touch with BetterUp and let us help you with your team empowerment competency today.
Sr. Insights Manager