One key aspect of good leaders is that they mentor and empower their team members. Empowering employees has multiple benefits for members of the organization, the organization itself, and its customers.
A few of these benefits are:
- Increased employee engagement: When people see that they’re trusted, they have a stronger sense of belonging. They appreciate that their judgement is valued, and that their opinions and ideas are welcomed
- More productive teams: By removing the leader from every single decision, both the decision-making and execution processes scale with each team member. At the same time, leaders can focus on steering the team in the right direction by emphasizing strategy instead of daily operations
- Improves customer service and experience: By empowering employees not only in customer-facing teams but in the whole chain of service, you guarantee faster responses times, and less bureaucracy
It’s clear that empowering employees is good for everyone. But how can you empower your team members in practice? There’s a few options:
- Define guidelines for common procedures. The intention is to set clear expectations of the outcome (the what), without giving too much detail on the steps needed to get there (the how). In that way, your team can decide how they want to reach the outcome based on their expertise, talents, and skills. They know what the delivery is, but they’re empowered to define the way
- Every time a team member depends on you to make a decision, mentor them so they can make the decision themselves, and then reinforce or correct their choice
- Define your team’s vision: mission, purpose, and values
These three options are not mutually exclusive. You can, and should, use all of them. But the last one — defining mission, purpose, and values of your team —, will give your team members autonomy.
The team’s mission statement describes what the team is trying to achieve. As an example, Disneyland’s mission is: “We create happiness by providing the best in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere”. You can notice they don’t state that they are in the theme park business. Their “what” is the creation of happiness.
It’s very common that companies will define a mission statement that applies to all departments. But this doesn’t mean you can’t create a mission statement that applies to the specific function of your team, as long as it is aligned with the company-wide one.
On the other hand, the purpose is a statement that defines why a particular team or organization exists. Another way to look at it, is to think what would happen if the team ceased to exist.
Values define the way each team member is expected to behave. Going back to our Disneyland example, these are their values, in order of importance: safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency.
Here is where Disneyland does something not all companies do: their values are not equal. Safety is the most important of all, followed by courtesy, then show, and lastly efficiency. This is the key to empowering employees through team values. If all values hold the same importance, in times when they are in conflict, employees won’t be able to make decisions on their own. As consequence, they will be forced to reach out to their managers, or even worst, make a decision while privileging the wrong value for a given context.
Imagine that efficiency was at the same level than safety. While developing a new park attraction, the project manager could have decided to remove safety measures to reduce costs. But since safety comes first, that type of compromise will never be possible, hence not risking the well-being of their customers.
So when you define the values for your team, make sure they are ordered by importance. In this way, you will remove confusion from your team members when it’s time for them to feel empowered and make decisions.