Leadership in any business begins with the boss. Executives that encourage and empower employees to become leaders can develop a strong team at all levels, and therefore increase the chances to be successful.
As Marshall Goldsmith writes in a story for Harvard Business Review: “Your employees understand their jobs. They know their tasks, roles, and functions within the organization, and it’s time for you to let them do what they need to do to get the job done.”
Here’s a look at how CEOs can encourage and empower their employees to become leaders.
Share the vision
Just as a well-thought-out business plan is essential before a business begins, so is a CEO’s vision of how the business can move forward. Sharing that vision with managers and employees can allow everyone to feel that they are a part of something bigger, something special, a company where they can excel and become leaders. In a story for Entrepreneur, Andre Lavoie writes that the road to empowering begins with a vision statement, giving employees “something to get excited about and to actively work toward.”
“Unlike a mission statement, which mostly serves shareholders by explaining the company’s reason for being, a vision statement is created to motivate employees,” he writes. “It describes where the company is, where it’s going and how it’s going to get from point A to point B. Put the vision statement at the center of everything the company does to inspire and empower employees to work toward a common goal.”
Empowerment isn’t just about giving an employee a new and important task and letting him or her take the lead. Executives and managers will need to understand their employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and help them through hard-to-navigate areas. Glenn Llopis writes about this for Forbes, noting that decision-making is a crucial element, and leaders should know “how to evaluate an employee’s decision-making blind spots.”
“Without the ability to see beyond the obvious, we are susceptible to falling into traps of our own making,” he explains. “This is where a strong leader will begin to determine where an employee is most and least predictable in how they react to a problem. As they guide them rightly to identify the consequences and probability patterns of each decision, problem solving becomes a treasure hunt of unforeseen opportunities.”
Here’s an area that can be tough for some business leaders to accept, especially those that have taken a disproportionate load of the day-to-day operations. Letting go of certain tasks may be necessary to devote more time to other areas, and it can be a key way to help employees develop into leadership roles. Marissa Levin examines this in a story for Inc.com, noting that “Leadership is a team effort.”
“It can be difficult to release control, knowing that others may not do things exactly as you would,” she explains. “However, one person — or even a team of leaders in a growing organization — can’t complete all tasks.”
Delegating allows managers to “stay focused on what you do best, and what you love most,” she writes. And she says it creates trust: “Employees want to know they are making impacts and contributions. They want to feel needed and empowered.”
Determine what they can handle
An up-and-coming employee may show great promise, and a work ethic that stands out among the crowd. Perhaps he or she actively embraces an increased workload, and makes no complaints about the time involved. Because of this, it may be assumed that the employee can take on just about anything. As Llopis explains, leaders will need to put serious thought into “how much each employee is able to handle,” including dealing with pressure and adversity, and “their overall mental toughness.”
“Enabling their full potential means working on the areas that require further attention and development — so that they will be able to rise to any occasion on their own,” he writes. “With the right guidance from leadership — encouraging employees to take risks, test their ideas and ideals, and challenge the status quo in an effort to make things better — potential is something that will develop organically over time.”
Time management is important in any part of business. Leaders that live by the “first in the office, last to leave” theory may have a hard time understanding the habits and schedules of others. As Sharon Zeev Poole writes for The CEO Magazine, empowering employees on new opportunities may mean stepping back from that rigid approach and incorporating some flexibility.
“ … Your employees will feel much more confident knowing you trust them enough to manage their own time,” she writes. “The way in which daily tasks are juggled is very personal, and everyone has different ways of handling things. Let your team be their best in their own ways, but do make it clear to them that you’re just an email away if they need guidance! The best method is to set guidelines or loose timeframes for your staff, letting them hash out the specifics themselves. You may find that your employees learn much faster this way, too.”
Mistakes and moving on
A tricky element in empowerment is how to handle mistakes. A realistic perspective is needed — things aren’t always going to go according to plan — and missteps shouldn’t necessarily prevent employees from future opportunities. There are lessons to be learned from failure. It’s important for the boss to examine the situation and help the employee move forward, which will help their growing leadership skills. As Megan Totka writes for Small Business Trends, “Forgiveness is important in all aspects of your life.”
“If your team is not making any mistakes, then you need to encourage them to reach higher,” she explains. “However, if you punish them for the mistakes they make, your team will become over-conservative and not take chances — chances that may have been your company’s next great idea. Make sure you establish differences between acceptable mistakes and critical offenses.”
The payoff for empowering employees comes when they reach goals that help their personal growth and the overall business. These can be significant moments, and executives should take the time to properly acknowledge the efforts involved and the benefits gained. As Lavoie writes for Entrepreneur, “The key to making employees feel confident enough to take initiative and make decisions is to simply reward those that do.”
“Recognizing these efforts is the ultimate employee motivator, as it encourages the employee to continue doing what they’re doing, as well as inspire their team members to follow suit,” he says. “This lets employees know their thoughts and opinions are valued and appreciated, making them all the more likely to speak up.”