Supervisors have a challenging role. They’re expected to move their team towards the organization’s strategic goals, keep their staff productive and engaged, and complete their own work, too.
How do top supervisors balance it all? The upcoming 4th of July holiday, aka Independence Day, points us in the right direction.
Supervisors who give their team members independence are more effective at juggling these responsibilities. In business terms, this work freedom is referred to as empowerment.
Supervisors who empower effectively will experience less work-related stress and have more productive teams—both of which can lead to faster career advancement.
However, many supervisors think that empowering their staff will mean giving up control, and that’s a little scary.
Let’s explore how you can do it in a way that maintains your oversight and ensures you and your team succeed!
Master the Skill of Empowerment
I worked with a supervisor who constantly complained about being overworked. She was regularly working late into the night and on weekends to catch up because she couldn’t get work done at the office with the parade of people coming in to ask her questions.
She hadn’t mastered the skill of empowerment.
Empowerment is the practice of giving employees decision-making authority in their work. They are allowed discretion regarding tasks and resources.
Empowerment is based on a belief that decisions should be made by the people doing the work and who, therefore, have the most accurate information. This makes good sense, but organizations are structured so that many decisions are given to leadership positions.
As Dan Pink discusses in his book Drive, autonomy is one of the three things that motivate people to perform at top levels. (If you’re curious, the other two are mastery and purpose.) Empowerment taps into the innate creativity that each of us is born with and unleashes both productivity and happiness at levels that can’t be reached without it.
Ultimately, empowerment means that a person takes full accountability for ensuring the work gets done. This means they also take full responsibility for mistakes. Supervisors can’t make someone do this, but must instead create the environment that supports it.
Creating the Environment
A supervisor’s role is to set the stage for empowerment. That includes making sure the individual is ready to handle the level of autonomy you’re giving, as well as support once they take it on.
To set people up for success, top supervisors provide the following to their empowered team members:
- Training to the level of competence
- Clearly defined expectations and boundaries
- Tools needed to do the job efficiently
- Information about what is happening in other areas of the organization so their decisions are well-informed
- Coaching through challenges
- Monitoring and feedback to ensure they are on track
- Support when they need someone to run interference
- Trust to try other’s ideas even if they aren’t what you would do
Avoiding the Pitfalls
Allowing team members to take on more may seem like the answer to an overworked supervisor’s problems. But, if not handled properly, you might end up creating more issues than you solve.
Here are three of the common mistakes I see supervisors make when they hand over the reins to their staff.
- Failing to monitor. Remember, you’re not giving up control, only allowing others to decide how the work gets done. You still need to check their production to make sure it’s at the quantity and quality required.
- Delegating when they should retain. There are some work and decisions that are inherently supervisory and that cannot be given to others to complete.
- Taking over when the going gets tough. It’s so tempting to revert to command and control in difficult or crisis situations. However, those are the times when having people closest to the work making the decisions really demonstrates the positive impact of empowerment. Trust the process and the people.
As you appreciate the independence we enjoy in the United States this holiday, take a few minutes to ponder whether–and in what ways–you could further empower your team. Your staff will be more engaged, your organization will have better results, and you will build a loyal team.
In what ways will you expand how you support your team to increase their level of empowerment?
You can leave your answer in a comment below.
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