In January, ExperiencePoint leader Greg Warman hosted a webinar which introduced the 5 Mindsets for Leading Innovation that all great leaders share. These five leadership practices, based on extensive research, provide a framework for engaging team members, inspiring creativity and ensuring that everyone on a team is focused on the end goal.
In our first blog in this series we covered Mindset #1: Relentless Optimism. The next mindset strategy that all good leaders practice is Empowerment.
Empowerment means fostering and encouraging self-leadership, purpose and vision among employees. Leaders who empower employees see their role as the defender of the team. They incorporate their team’s ideas into project plans, empower them to make decisions and run interference when obstacles get in their way. They also celebrate their people when they achieve success and always give credit where it is due.
Empowering your people will certainly make you a more popular leader, but that is not the only outcome. Studies show that empowered employees are associated with a broad range of business benefits, including increased job satisfaction and organizational commitment, improved performance, and reduced turnover. Other studies have found that employers who empower others experience higher profits and greater customer loyalty.
For some managers, empowering people comes naturally. They engage with employees, set big goals, then give them the space and authority to get things done. For others, the idea of letting teams work autonomously without micromanaging their every move goes against everything they believe a manager should do.
Chances are that even if you think you are one of these empowering leaders, you could probably do better. Here’s how:
Inform and educate. If you want employees to make good decisions, they need all the information. That means managers have to be completely transparent about why the goals of a project are important, the potential risks they face and how their actions impact the outcome. They also need to be sure that they have the training they need to excel in this role. When employees are informed and educated, they will make decisions that benefit the business and the project — not just themselves. And that, in turn, benefits everyone.
Treat your team like customers. In the world of human-centered design, every decision is tied back to customer need. As a manager, your most important customers are the members of your team. Take the time to talk to them, find out what they need and empathize with their employee journey. These insights will help you identify obstacles in the way of their success and create a more empowered environment where they are likely to succeed.
Ask for feedback. Empowering managers don’t dictate every action. They encourage employees to provide feedback on the project, then they incorporate those ideas into the plan. Not only does this make employees feel more invested in the outcome, it brings a diversity of ideas to the table. The result: more innovative (and successful) solutions.
Trust and be trustworthy. When you empower employees, it means you are trusting them to take risks, and as such, sometimes they make the wrong decision. Let them know that mistakes are okay as long as they are honest about what happened and willing to learn. In turn, if you make a mistake (trust us, you will) show them the same courtesy. Owning up to your own failings is one of the most powerful things a leader can do to build trust among their teams.
Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Design Thinking 101.