Top Principles of Employee Empowerment

Empower Employees - Right - to Ensure Success and Progress

The Credo of an Empowering Manager

Looking for real management advice about people? Your goal is to create a work environment in which people are empowered, productive, contributing, and happy. Don't hobble them by limiting their tools or information. Trust them to do the right thing. Get out of their way and watch them catch fire.

These are the ten most important principles for managing people in a way that reinforces employee empowerment, accomplishment, and contribution. These management actions enable both the people who work with you and the people who report to you to soar.

Demonstrate That You Value People

Four diverse coworkers interact smiling
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Your regard for people shines through in all of your actions and words. Your facial expression, your body language, and your words express what you are thinking about the people who report to you.

Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person's unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on his or her current task, your value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.

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Share Leadership Vision

Empowered Employees Feel As If They Know the Big Picture
Empowered Employees Feel As If They Know the Big Picture. Copyright Digital Vision / Getty Images

Help people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their individual job. Do this by making sure they know and have access to the organization's overall mission, vision, and strategic plans.

Better? Include employees in the actual planning on the product and department level and ask for their input on the overall plan. They will own the direction and surprise you with their commitment and competency.

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Share Goals and Direction

Goals are critical in employee empowerment so employees know what you expect from them.

When possible, involve employees in goal setting and planning. They add value, knowledge, ideas, insight, and experience that you won't find on your senior team. At the very least, involve them in goal setting on the department level and share the most important goals and direction for your group.

With the help of your employees, make progress on goals measurable and observable, or ascertain that you have shared your picture of a positive outcome with the people responsible for accomplishing the results.

If you share a picture and share meaning, you have agreed upon what constitutes a successful and acceptable deliverable. Empowered employees can then chart their course without close supervision.

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Trust People

Trust is fundamental when you empower employees.

Trust the intentions of people to do the right thing, make the right decision, and make choices that, while maybe not exactly what you would decide, still work. When employees receive clear expectations from their manager, they relax and trust you. They focus their energy on accomplishing, not on wondering, worrying, and second-guessing.

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Provide Information for Decision Making

Empowered Employees Participate in Decision Making
Empowered Employees Participate in Decision Making. Dean Sanderson

Make certain that you have given people, or made sure that they have access to, all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions.

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Delegate Authority and Impact Opportunities, Not Just More Work

To empower employees, you need them to do what you want them to do.
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Don't just delegate the drudge work; delegate some of the fun stuff, too. You know, delegate the important meetings, the committee memberships that influence product development and decision making, and the projects that people and customers notice.

The employee will grow and develop new skills. Your plate will be less full so you can concentrate on contribution. Your reporting staff will gratefully shine - and so will you.

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Provide Frequent Feedback

Provide feedback for employee development.

Provide frequent feedback so that people know how they are doing. Sometimes, the purpose of feedback is reward and recognition as well as improvement coaching. People deserve your constructive feedback, too, so they can continue to develop their knowledge and skills.

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Solve Problems: Don't Pinpoint Problem People

Two female employees participating in a needed workplace conflict.
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When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the people to fail, not what is wrong with the people. Worst case response to problems? Seek to identify and punish the guilty. (Thank you, Dr. Deming.)

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Listen to Learn and Ask Questions to Provide Guidance

Listening is a skill used when you are empowering employees.
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Provide a space in which people will communicate by listening to them and asking them questions. Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do. People generally know the right answers if they have the opportunity to produce them.

When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "what do you think you should do to solve this problem?" Or, ask, "what action steps do you recommend?" Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.

Eventually, you will feel comfortable telling the employee that he or she need not ask you about similar situations. You trust their judgment.

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Help Employees Feel Rewarded and Recognized for Empowered Behavior

Empowered employees clapping at work.
Employee Recognition Helps Engage Your Employees. Michael Blann/Iconica/Getty Images

When employees feel under-compensated, under-titled for the responsibilities they take on, under-noticed, under-praised, and under-appreciated, don’t expect results from employee empowerment.

The basic needs of employees must feel met for employees to give you their discretionary energy, that extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work. For successful employee empowerment, recognition plays a significant role.

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