Effective Leadership: Empower your staff to save your own sanity

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Picture this. You ask a staff member to do a task that has certain flexibility for their own decision making. Next minute, the staff member comes back to you with a long list of questions, trying to be super specific with everything.

You’re then annoyed, wondering why the staff member has to ask you permission for every tiny thing. This actually isn’t an unusual scenario. For many people, it can be difficult to break out of their “follow the boss” mindset. 

What effective leaders do is foster a team that are not reliant on them for constant micromanagement, but rather they feel empowered and self-guided. Trust and authority are some of the necessary ingredients to develop this type of productive and effective work culture. We can use this wisdom to train informed and decisive staff and teams, that we can trust. 

Let’s run through five effective ways to achieve just that.

Empower your team with flexibility

You may be in the habit of managing every aspect of your staff member’s day, but that’s not healthy for you or for them. It’s time to let your staff make their own decisions which yes, includes making mistakes.

You can start by identifying key tasks that would benefit from greater flexibility and creative input. These are typically regular activities and low impact if they go wrong. Think of things such as administration work, organising email newsletter content, managing IT security backups, writing social media posts, replying to job seekers, etc.

Sit down with your team and explain how much flexibility they will each have within each of these tasks. Be careful not to leave it completely open-ended from the start. You should start slow by giving them some parameters to work with so that they’re not immediately overwhelmed.

Encourage immediate feedback loops

It’s common for many businesses to conduct staff member surveys occasionally to discover workplace concerns, workflow issues, and success stories. However, these issues can get lost with time, and it’s difficult to bring up specific issues if they happened too long ago.

You should look at employee pulse surveys or other tools that allow your team to highlight workflow issues straight away, so that proper action can be taken then, not in six months. Make sure to get the whole team answering these surveys and make sure to share the results with them too. That transparency helps your team to trust you and each other to deliver honest and helpful praise and criticism.

Push but don’t shove

The best thing you can do for your staff members, is encourage them to push their knowledge and work, to accept new challenges and improve their skill sets. What you don’t want to do, however, is shove them so far out of their comfort zone that it becomes a negative experience. 

For example, you shouldn’t ask a staff member to take on a task that’s completely outside anything they have ever done before. They will often then feel like you have figuratively tossed them to the lions. If you’re ever unsure about their comfort level, don’t hesitate to check in and ask. You will find most of the time, people will happily tell you when they feel uncomfortable.

Cultivate a sense of ownership

I have found in my roles, that if you build a sense of ownership throughout your team, they will get the job done and with better care. Your team needs to understand that they own both the success and the failures. If they make a mistake, that is fine, they just need to own up to it.

In a similar vein, when they have success in their work, they should be given recognition as well.

Assign them new responsibilities

As I mentioned, it is important to challenge your staff members so they can demonstrate and achieve their full potential. You should also work with them to find their unique interests and abilities.

As an example, you might notice that one of your staff members enjoys writing content. Perhaps you could assign her the job of managing the company social media for a week or two, and then find out what they thought of the experience.

If you are unsure what they enjoy, simply sit down with each member of your team and ask them what types of experiences would help them grow professionally.

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