Empowered employees are the mark of real leadership and the symbol of a healthy company. Whether you're a mid-level manager or a C-suite executive, as a leader, you want the people who know how to take initiative, and do it well. But before you can expect your employees to magically start taking charge on their own, managers need to do their part to unlock potential. Here are five ways you can foster empowerment and score all the benefits that come along with it.
Let People Fail
Winston Churchill is famously (mis) quoted as saying, "Just as success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts" (the true source is unclear). Any good leader worth their salt will let people fail and not criticize them for it when they do.
In building resilience and offering positive reinforcement, you're giving your employees a priceless gift: latitude and the landscape to take chances. Being on hand for that failure and giving praise when they rebound--instead of firing and making an example of the employee--is the core to success for a smaller, fast-moving company. Empowering people enough so that they can fail and not feel like they're risking their jobs, standing or social structure, is key.
Share Intellectual Honesty
In the early days of Apple, the term "reality distortion field" was used to describe founder Steve Jobs' ability to make it seem as if reality was malleable just out of his own sheer will for it to happen. Jobs willed himself, and others around him, to succeed.
While the argument remains that this proved to be more of a detriment, there's a healthy balance in the idea of intellectual honesty--identifying what is reality, and what is potential. When you're seeing 12- to 24-month-long life cycles in a market that changes every day, being able to sustain the workload, being clear-eyed instead of spewing bull, and basing your business decisions in reality allows people to reach beyond their expectations.
Get Rid of "Mushroom Management"
Ten years ago, clients would ask for proof of concepts because we'd lie about what was in the product. Offices weren't much better--in classic Mushroom Management, the employees were treated like mushrooms are cultivated, "Kept in the dark and periodically given a load of s---."
In today's world, that just doesn't fly. We're in the generation of a "show me" mentality. You want to showcase what you're doing and how you're doing it. This openness breeds a sense of trust between leadership and employees while instilling a sense of confidence and unification.
The Golden Rule
As a leader, I manage my Watson Data Platform team at IBM with one rule in mind: treat your employees, your teammates, as you would want to be treated. It's a simple cliché, but it's crucial behavior to model amid the head-spinning pace of business today.
Gone are the days where you contributed as an individual and you were governed by name, rank and serial number. You can't expect to find success with a traditional hierarchical structure, instead, find value in extending a hand to your closest allies at the office-- your staff--and reap the benefits that result.
Your Success Is My Success
It's the philosophy that "your success is my success, and your failure is my failure" that connects leaders to their employees. In being the best leader you can be, you're developing other leaders beneath you. Empowered employees will benefit so greatly from your impact that some may succeed beyond you. And that's when you pat yourself on the back, smart leader.