What’s the key to team empowerment? What are ways to give your employees autonomy?
In The First-Time Manager, Jim McCormick writes that you can nurture a high-performing team by empowering your employees to be innovative and to make independent decisions. He believes that teams can operate with self-efficiency and keep up with the fast pace of business.
Read on to learn the basics of team empowerment.
1. Know What Kind of Support Your Employees Need
To exercise team empowerment, first figure out what kind of support they need from you. Different employees need different amounts of control and encouragement from you to function at their best. Assess the support your employees need based on two things: motivation and skill level.
First, evaluate how much motivation your employee has. This helps you determine how much encouragement they need from you. A highly motivated employee needs little encouragement while an unmotivated employee needs a lot of encouragement.
Second, assess the level of their knowledge and skills. This helps you determine how much oversight and control you should exercise—for example, how detailed your instructions should be or how often you should check in on their work. The more knowledgeable and skilled an employee is, the less control they require to perform well.
|Support Your Employees Based on Their Task-Relevant Maturity (TRM)|
Tailoring your support based on motivation and skill is only one approach to figuring out the best management style for each of your team members. In High Output Management, Andrew Grove proposes a different factor you can consider, which he refers to as task-relevant maturity (TRM), to determine how involved you need to be. An employee’s TRM is how experienced, skilled, and mentally prepared they are to complete a specific task under specific circumstances.
For employees with low TRM, Grove recommends giving detailed guidance on what needs to be done and how it should be done, similar to what McCormick suggests you do with less motivated or skilled employees.
For employees with medium TRM, Grove suggests you mostly provide ideas but let the employees provide much of the structure and guidance themselves.
For employees with high TRM, give objectives but don’t get involved in the team’s work. Often, giving people the autonomy to do their work the way they see fit will boost their motivation.
Considering TRM in addition to motivation and knowledge might help you get a more accurate gauge of what your employees need from you. For example, someone might have high motivation and skill, but if they’ve been sent to do work in a new location, they may need more guidance and support than usual.
2. Build Your Team’s Confidence
McCormick writes that you can also empower your team by finding ways to boost their confidence so they feel capable of taking initiative and making decisions on their own.
One way to boost your team’s confidence is to provide them with little victories. You can do this by first assigning tasks that are relatively easy and within their capabilities. That way, they can achieve good results and feel more confident about their skills and their work.
(Shortform note: In addition to boosting your team’s confidence with small wins, make sure to give them time to pause and celebrate. In Leadership is Language, L. David Marquet explains that giving your team time to celebrate provides them a sense of closure and progress, which boosts their productivity and engagement. They can reflect on the work they’ve done, learn from their experience, and improve their performance for upcoming tasks.)
Another way to increase your team’s confidence is to encourage employees to make decisions on their own. To do this, react to mistakes productively and don’t expect perfect decisions. People who fear making the wrong decision won’t make any at all, and if you harshly criticize those who do take initiative, you’ll only discourage them from trying. If someone makes a flawed decision, review the situation, discuss what could be done better next time, and thank them for taking the initiative.
(Shortform note: In Turn This Ship Around, L. David Marquet recommends encouraging a language change to empower team members to make more decisions. Tell employees that instead of asking for permission, they should say what they intend to do—for example, “I intend to start on the next project phase.” This language change forces team members to make more decisions since they have to decisively state what actions they plan to do instead of asking others what they should do. This leads employees to take ownership of their tasks and become more engaged in their work.)
3. Motivate Your Employees
To run an empowered team, you also need to keep your employees motivated. To do this, figure out what drives them individually—what keeps them engaged in their work and pushes them to perform well. McCormick recommends several ways to motivate your employees:
Method #1: Align individual and company goals. Motivation varies from person to person, so McCormick recommends getting to know your employees’ goals, whether they’re interested in learning a new skill or networking with more people. To inspire them to do their best work, try to match their goals with those of the company—for instance, if they want to learn a particular skill, offer them training or mentorship opportunities.
Method #2: Share positive outcomes. People enjoy contributing to something bigger than themselves. Showing how their efforts contribute to a positive outcome gives their work more meaning and motivates them to work hard.
Method #3: Give rewards. Rewards show people that their performance and efforts matter and are therefore a great motivator for employees. You should not only reward successful endeavors, McCormick writes, but also thoughtful and well-executed ones that don’t succeed. This encourages people to take innovative risks instead of playing it safe to avoid failure.