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How Empowering People to Make These 3 Small Decisions Sets Them up for Success

January 15, 2018

Decisions, decisions, decisions. They can be difficult, and sometimes nerve-wracking to make, but making decisions is part of what makes us grow in business and in life. As a leader, you don’t want to be the sole decision-maker in your company. Sure, you need to “drive the bus” so to speak, but empowering people with some of the decision-making will make for a much more functional, smooth-running, and enjoyable workplace for your employees and yourself.

How to Empower Employees

Your employees need to feel as though they have some measure of freedom and autonomy to make impactful decisions. You don’t want them to feel paralyzed in the absence of your guidance when faced with moments in which they will need to work through problems or make decisions on their own. So, how do you create empowered employees who are out there making decisions that benefit your business? Well, you don’t really bestow empowerment on your employees, but you nurture it; you bring out the empowerment that already lies latent within them. Below are a few ways in which you can cultivate an empowered workforce.

1. Give Them A Goal to Set

While goals are important for managers to set, your employees can participate in setting their own goals, or in determining how and when those goals will be met. For example, if you meet with your team and have a list of quarterly goals, leave an open space for the team to come up with their own goal for the quarter. People tend to take ownership over goals they set for themselves, rather than feeling they are forced to do something they’re told to do. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a Forbes contributor, explains how intrinsic motivation can help create a more engaged workforce.

2. Give Them Breathing Space

No one likes to feel as though his or her every move is being watched and scrutinized. So get out of the way and give your employees some breathing space. Give them wide latitude when it comes to determining their workflow and the day’s schedule. You can even give them greater independence by allowing flexible work hours and flexible lunch hours, or even work-from-home options. What matters is that the work is being performed and that your employees are being productive and staying engaged; how they achieve those ends can be left up to them. Trust your team.

3. Give Them the Icing on the Cake

Halvorson writes in the same Forbes article cited above that “peripheral decisions create a feeling of choice, even when the choices aren’t particularly meaningful or relevant to the goal itself.” Even if you need to hold the reins tightly in terms of setting goals and objectives, and your industry or your organization cannot allow for much flexibility in the workplace, odds are good that there are some aspects of the workday that are non-essential but that require decision-making nonetheless. Halvorson gives the example of allowing your team to decide what to order in for lunch. Another example might be to let your employees decorate or furnish their offices or workstations to their own liking. Or you could allow them to listen to music on their own computers using earbuds or headsets, or have a shared office radio and let your team cast a weekly vote on the station. You get the picture. When you give it some thought, there are likely numerous small decisions that you can let your employees take ownership over. They might seem non-essential, but they are the little extras that can make a good place to work feel like a great place to work.
A team that is empowered can contribute great things to your organization. Whether the decisions are great or small, what matters is that your employees feel they can make decisions that are meaningful. As leaders, you have the power to help them discover the power within themselves.


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