If you've been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that I'm a big fan of empowering employees so they can perform at their best. When I noticed Grant Derner's article, 5 Keys to Empowering Employees, I had to click on the link. Kindred spirits, both Grant and I believe that today's workforce wants to contribute to something bigger than themselves and longs to be managed by dynamic leaders who can share the passion and vision for what they're doing. When this happens within an organization, your have companies like Apple, Nike and Electronic Arts creating products that define markets and energize their customers.
I think the same thing can happen within any project teams. Here are Derner's 5 Keys:
- Challenge and Inspire: "Today's modern generation of talent is one that desires to personally contribute at a high level and to be 'managed' by inspirational leaders who challenge their ability to innovate and generate results through their own empowered performance," writes Derner. I've found this to be true. I've discovered that people really want to contribute to something bigger than themselves, and if we can create an environment where they feel it can happen, they typically step up to the challenge. Doing that requires that we give people some freedom to make decisions for themselves and appropriately recognize their accomplishments.
- Stay Informed: Dermer suggests that successful business leaders "...consistently take time to personally reflect on their management activities from a leadership perspective and work to enhance their overall leadership skills as they continue to grow professionally." I agree. As project leaders, I think it's critical that we invest in learning and executing those best practices that enable us to improve our skills and provide more value to the team.
- Stay Personal: "Successful business leaders additionally acknowledge that leading teams requires an investment of time focusing on communication as they work to build an organization that is agile and empowered," writes Dermer. Over the years I've learned that business is all about personal relationships. I've known managers who have tried to keep everything impersonal and distant, but I disagree with that approach. Empowering employees requires people to make a personal connection to their work—it also means that the entire process is personal too.
- Create an Empowered Culture: According to Dermer, "To raise the empowerment bar it is important to build an environment throughout your organization that genuinely encourages and rewards individuals to make self-directed decisions independently with the best interest of your customers and the corporation in mind." Many project leaders might consider this to be a little risky, but the most successful project environments I've witnessed have an empowered culture where team members not only have a voice, but enjoy some autonomy in how they do their job and who they do it with. An empowered culture facilitates empowered team members.
- Encourage Above and Beyond: "Finally, almost every successful business leader will affirm that today's empowered workforce also requires more consistent recognition compared to teams in the past," says Dermer. "Today's modern performers thrive on recognition and this can be delivered both inside and outside of the confines of the office." There are as many different ways to recognize exceptional performance as there are individuals—from a simple thank you to a formalized recognition in front of the team or organization. What will work best for your organization is up to you and your team. I like to keep it specific and, if appropriate, make it public. Recognizing accomplishment encourages people to go above and beyond what my routinely be expected.
After reading the list, I have to admit that Dermer doesn't really bring up anything new, but that's the beauty of empowering people to perform at their best. It does require a little effort, but nothing that is out of the reach of every organization and every project team.
What are you doing to empower your team members?