Empowerment is a buzz word that is used in a lot of different settings. As a very basic definition, empowerment provides an individual or a team with the ability to make decisions by providing authority and giving responsibility to the individual or the group.
A good way to think about empowerment is to consider it the complete opposite of micromanaging. This is not to say the team has all the authority or all the decision making power, but they are able to make decisions and take on responsibilities as designated by the team leader. This is true for the management team as well as for the groups that work throughout a business from hourly employees on up the chain of command.
Creating an empowered team starts at the top. This could be a project manager, a team leader, or even a shift supervisor focusing on building decision-making capacity, confidence, and ownership in both the success and the growth of the company.
Encourage Collaboration and Participation
Holding team meetings and discussions on change is a great way to build empowerment. Asking team members to make suggestions, discuss ideas, and to create proposals is the first step in empowerment. With strategic questions and support, allowing the team to structure how changes will occur or how to implement new policies, practices or procedures build in confidence and understanding of the process.
Encourage Professional Development
Providing training and professional development options and incentives for team members is part of encouraging people to develop areas of interest and expertise. This personal growth is reflected in team confidence and competence in making decisions and developing a strategic approach to resolving challenges or issues.
Become a Support
One of the most effective ways to encourage autonomy within a team is to move out of the managerial role and into a more supportive role. By coaching or mentoring the team leader and team members, the manager moves away from decision making and into supporting team members in feeling confident and comfortable in their decisions.
This also allows the manager to continue to be in a position to provide insight and to support training, skill development, and interaction with the team. Empowering a team does not require stepping completely away from the decision-making role, but rather in utilizing a greater degree of insight and information, the team provides in a more effective way.
Avoid Second-Guessing or Invalidating Team Decisions
While discussing options and considering the pros and cons is a great way for the team to build communication skills and to explore the range of possibilities, it has to be done carefully.
Providing the team has experience and expertise; they need to be allowed to set their own path. The manager has to be seen as having their back in the decisions they make. A manager that consistently overrides or alters a team decision can quickly erode any empowerment that has been carefully developed.