Entrepreneurs and corporate executives alike know that an empowered team is a productive team… and a productive team is a profitable team.

More than that – an empowered team is proactive and takes initiative, carrying out their work in a way that doesn’t require exhausting micro-management and which allows the leader to step back from day to day tasks and focus on the strategic work of driving the business forward.

But building an empowered team involves more than simply telling people that they are empowered. There are actions to be taken and behaviours built to ensure that your team develops the mindset and motivation to take empowered action.

Here are 5 of them

1) Define what you mean

If you want to empower your team, the first thing to do is to clearly define what exactly you mean by that: ‘empowerment’ is one of those words that comes dangerously close to meaningless jargon if it’s just thrown thoughtlessly about.

So ask yourself the following:

  • What exactly does an ‘empowered’ team look like to you?
  • If your team was ‘empowered’ right now, what would they be doing that they aren’t doing now?
  • What would they NOT be doing that they are doing now?

Those answers will give you some clear action points and goals to work towards.

2) Remove barriers to empowerment

One you’re clear on what you want your empowered team to be like and how you want them to be working together (and with you and your clients) you’ll need to look at what’s currently stopping them.

These factors might not be obvious at a first glance, typically, they’ll fall into the following categories:

  • Structural – something in the way your business ‘architecture’ and infrastructure might be getting in the way
  • Procedural – something in your processes and procedures might be getting in the way
  • Behavioural – mindsets attitudes and behaviours might be getting in the way.

Here’s the thing: you need to understand what lies in the way, otherwise you could end up trying to use the wrong tool to solve the problem. If, for example, the real issue is that processes and procedures are so restrictive they’re preventing independent thoughts and innovation… there’s no point tackling matters as though they were a behavioural issue.

And vice versa – there’s no point fixing processes and structures if the biggest barrier to progress is behavioural patterns and habits.

Removing barriers means first identifying what they are, and identifying them accurately.

3) Encourage empowered behaviours

This is not the starting point though – the ground must be prepared first, by considering the points above. And then, expectations must be clearly communicated and changes monitored.

  • Be specific about the behaviours you want to see from your empowered team
  • Be clear about what you DON’T want from your team
  • Build these expectations into your performance management practices and processes (entrepreneurs: you do have those, right?)

Empowered behaviours and action will only become part of your day to culture if expectations are clearly set, changes / results managed and the right behaviours rewarded, so consider how you’ll do this long term.

4) Align with values and principles

This step is often neglected, but nonetheless crucial: your business values are the guardrails that will ensure that you empowered team are not only working together in a productive and proactive way, but doing so in a way that aligns with your ethics, values and brand

  • Be clear about what your values, ethics and standards are
  • Talk about practicalities, not broad concepts: for example ‘be prepared to give and receive feedback from your peers’ (and other specific actions) rather than just the vague notion of ‘trust’
  • Communicate these to everyone. Don’t imagine that everyone instinctively knows what your business values are – if you haven’t told them they probably don’t.

5) Consider what an empowered team will actually mean for you, personally

Building a more empowered team is likely to require changes in your leadership style and approach, so considering the changes that you need to make personally and committing to make those changes is a key aspect of all of this (if not the most important aspect).

  • What will you be able to do, with an empowered team working for you, that you can’t do now?
  • What and how do you need to change in order to enable your team’s empowerment (stepping back and letting go aren’t easy!)
  • How will you ensure that changes made are long lasting and become part of your working culture?

An empowered team is something that every business leader wants. Building one involves a mini strategy in itself, but the benefits will be felt by you, your team AND your business into the future.