The more empowered our teams are, the more ownership they take and the more productive they can become. Which is great for us and for our companies.

As leaders, one of our key goals should be to empower our teams. Otherwise, we can become a bottleneck, having to constantly provide approvals or solutions, which puts a limit on what can be achieved.

While most leaders look to empower their teams, many fail to do so, because they are making one of the following mistakes which kill empowerment. 

Removing limits.

Too many leaders think that to empower people you need to remove limits. But actually, the contrary is true.  

To empower people, we need to give them a framework with clear boundaries within which they can operate safely. Empowerment means clear limits, not no limits.

A lack of limits can actually paralyze a team and have them constantly coming back to you for guidance.

Be process driven

When we hold people accountable for following processes, we are actually taking away any empowerment, because we give them little to no freedom to influence the outcome.

What we need to do is to hold them accountable for outcomes, and let them determine the best way to achieve the result. 

As General George Patton said, "Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results." 

Blame Culture

Nothing kills empowerment faster than a blame culture.

When a blame culture exists people look to refrain from volunteering and showing initiative because they know that if they cause something to fail they are going to get punished.

People will look to follow processes to the letter so that if there is a failure it's the process that's to blame not them.

Blame culture stifles innovation, creativity, and empowerment.

Being a Micro Manager 

Nobody likes to be micro-managed, having their boss constantly looking over their shoulder and asking them are we there yet.

This shows a complete lack of trust and trust is crucial to people feeling empowered.

That doesn't mean we can't check on on progress, but we need to give the team the space to do the work, with just a couple of checkpoints, say at 50 percent and 90 percent of the way through.

Taking All The Credit

Credit is made for sharing. But too many managers make it all about themselves, they look to hog all of the credit, giving very little to their teams.

When your team doesn't feel recognized for taking ownership and going the extra mile, they will soon go back to being disempowered.

What gets recognized, get repeated, and if we want our teams to not only remain empowered but become more empowered, then they need to be recognized, for both showing initiative and also for the results achieved.

 

To fully empower your teams and get the most out of them we need to set a clear framework for them to operate in and let them determine how best to do the work. Be supportive not blaming, if things go wrong, check in occasionally to see how they are doing, and praise them and share any success. 

The more we can empower our teams the more they will achieve, and it will also free us up as leaders to focus more on leading, clienting and coaching.