To "empower" means "to allow or enable." Successful leaders conduct themselves in such a way that employees feel good about working with them. How do they do this? By enabling and allowing employees to succeed. Empowered employees feel ownership for their work, a critical element to creating a motivated workplace. The ten steps that follow are necessary to cultivating empowered employees.
1. Delegate meaningful jobs, not just the "junk" stuff you don't want to do. Workers don't want to perform trivial tasks on a regular basis any more than you do. If the tasks are truly unimportant, maybe they should be deleted altogether. If they are necessary, consider setting up a rotating schedule so workers can take turns performing the task.
2. "Let go" once you delegate (supervisors have a tendency to oversupervise). If you delegate a task, make sure the person you give it to has the skills, the instructions, and the resources necessary to carry it out. If you don't have the confidence in the person's ability to do a satisfactory job, you shouldn't give the task to that person to begin with.
3. Show you trust your employees by accepting their ideas and suggestions. Seek out employees' ideas on a regular basis. Employees feel ownership of a process or a task when they've had input into it.
4. Whenever possible, provide opportunities for employees to work in self-managed or self-directed work teams. Allow these teams freedom to determine the best course of action for meeting agreed-upon goals and objectives. Employees will see firsthand the results of there decisions and feel the pride of group achievement.
5. Give credit where credit is due. A sure way to earn distrust from employees and squelch their enthusiasm is to take credit for their good ideas and performances.
6. Create opportunities to showcase your employees. "Billboard" employees to your own supervisors and to others in upper management as well as to those outside your department or division. Some managers erroneously think that if they give workers credit, upper management will question the manager's own performance. But managers who fall into the trap of competing with the employees they supervise usually stall their own careers.
7. Add interest and challenge to workers' day-to-day routines by implementing job rotation. Job rotation simply involves placing employees into jobs of equal value that they may have expressed an interest in or that you expect, based on their skill strengths, they may do well in. Some organizations encourage employees to initiate job rotation through a formal process, thereby increasing job skill levels as well as motivation.
8. Provide employees with responsibility and authority to successfully accomplish assignments. Today, progressive companies utilize the skills and talents of their employees by assigning them to cross-functional or self-directed work teams. Employees not only perform their own specific job functions by have a team identity as well. Team members are responsible and accountable to the team for achieving its goal, implementing processes, and sharing the recognition for its results.
9. Provide assistance to employees without taking away responsibility to complete the job. Clearly define your role and avoid the temptation to do the job yourself when employees find themselves in hot water. Let employees go it on their own and face those gut-wrenching challenges.
10. Find ways to foster employee self-esteem and self-confidence. Although important, managers and supervisors must do more than give praise and provide meaningful work. To empower employees, supervisors must continually build employee self-esteem.
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