One of the biggest complaints I hear from managers and leaders is that employees will not take initiative or be accountable for the things that are theirs to do. One of the biggest complaints I hear during employee focus groups is the concern that managers and leaders will not allow the employees to take more initiative or be accountable.
Can you see the incredible opportunity here? Everyone wants the same thing, but no one knows how to achieve it! One reason is this: most managers and leaders believe it is all or nothing — I either give total empowerment to my employees or I give them zero empowerment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In a nutshell, when Employee Empowerment is done properly and consistently, it will improve employee engagement dramatically! This model recognizes that empowerment is a process, and something a person needs to learn how to use. Consider the amount of authority and responsibility an employee is given, versus the amount of authority and responsibility you as a leader take on. As you gradually decrease your involvement, and coach your employees on how to wisely take on more, you create an environment conducive to employee engagement, initiative, and creativity — and as a bonus, you free yourself to take on true leadership roles.
Here’s the Employee Empowerment Model:
Here’s how you, as a leader/manager, would use each level of the model as you coach your employee(s):
Level 1: Investigate the problem and give me the facts. I’ll make the decision.
Level 2: Let me know the alternatives, with pros and cons for each. I’ll make the
Level 3: Recommend a course of action for my approval, including your justification.
Level 4: Let me know what you intent to do. Implement if you don’t hear from me
within 24 hours. (or other agreed upon time).
Level 5: Take action. Let me know what you did and how it turned out.
Level 6: Take action. Communicate with me only if there are concerns.
Level 7: It’s your responsibility now, and you are accountable. No need to
communicate with me, other than periodic reviews as scheduled.
What are the benefits of empowering to build employee engagement?
Using this type of progressive empowerment model allows employees to learn how to take responsibility in a safe environment. It will also:
- Build confidence of the employee (and your confidence in their ability to make wise decisions);
- Enhance the competence level of the employee; and
- Dramatically increase the comfort level of the employee as he/she takes on more responsibility.
Some additional tips to empower employees and increase employee engagement:
- Increase signature authority
- Remove or reduce the levels of approval needed for actions/decisions
- Eliminate handcuffing rules and regulations
- Allow more freedom of movement
- Include in decision-making meetings and discussions
One final tip: Match the resources available with the level of authority. A great quote from The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes and Posner) says, “There is nothing more disempowering than having lots of authority to do something — and nothing to do it with!”
And remember, as you empower, people will make mistakes. Let’s agree to make failure our teacher, not our undertaker, by turning mistakes into great learning opportunities for next time.