“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others” ~ Bill Gates

 Leading a team of individuals can be a challenge, particularly given the fast pace of today’s workplaces. Leaders are expected to enable their teams to effectively produce high quality products and services. In order for this to occur employees need to be empowered to be innovative and to take initiative.

Leaders play a critical role in creating an environment of empowerment; however, it is not a quick fix. It requires time, energy, commitment, and most important, consistency between words and action. Below are six ideas, that we use with our clients, to help make your team and organization a place in which people are comfortable to step up, be creative, and get things done.

1.     Establish open communication

Open communication is fundamental for employees to be empowered. Actively solicit feedback and opinions from your team members. Empowerment involves the ability to influence relevant events and the direction of their work. This gives people a greater sense of contribution, which leads to greater commitment to the work.

2.     Provide clarity of direction

It is important to highlight that empowerment does not equate lack of guidance or direction. Within a team there will be diversity in thoughts and ideas as to how to move forward. Clarity of direction through ongoing discussion regarding involvement, roles, and boundaries will empower staff to move in a coordinated manner.

 3.     Support professional relationships

Empowerment requires strong professional relationships between employees, and between the leader and the team. Leaders and employees alike need to engage with each other, through mentorship, coaching, and also sharing of personal stories and experiences. Supportive engagement enables a high level of trust, thus increasing peoples’ ability to take initiative and to step outside of their comfort zone.

4.     Create opportunities for people to excel

Every member of a team has a number of strengths and can make unique contributions to the work. Recognize and acknowledge those strengths and create opportunities for employees to excel. People are empowered when they feel that their participation is critical to the overall success of the work and the team. The more employees are encouraged to utilize their strengths, the more they will look for new initiatives in which they can be involved.

5.     Allow people to stumble

Empowerment will only occur when challenge is viewed from the bigger picture, openly acknowledging that innovation may be successful or may not. If leaders are encouraging employees to take risks there has to be clear and equal support for both failure and success. Failure can produce valuable lessons for the employee, the team, and the organization, and leaders need to communicate this on a regular basis.

6.     Acknowledge and appreciate effort

Acknowledgement and appreciation of effort creates a positive work environment. Empower your employees through recognizing their contribution and collaborative engagement. Never underestimate the power of “thank you”.