koza hshotaBy Jim Koza, Karl’s Event Services/Arena Americas, Milwaukee, Wis./Knoxville, Tenn.
How many of you have 48 hours in a day? 72 hours? How many of you are thinking, “Is this guy nuts?” You wouldn’t be the first, but it is actually possible to add hours to your day and dollars to your bottom line. In today’s economy, whether you are part of a large company or a small business, being lean, productive and profitable is key to success.

The truth is that you can’t add actual hours to your day, but you can exponentially add productive hours to your business by maximizing key business assets—your employees. Creating a culture of empowerment within your company or team isn’t always easy, especially if you are the type who likes to maintain control or if you believe nobody can do it as good as you. However, empowering employees will not only positively affect your bottom line, it will positively impact the attitude of your team and even affect the way clients and customers view your company. What does empowering your team mean? It means allowing and trusting your team to make more of the decisions you, as a leader, would make. Imagine the impact on your bottom line if there were two of you or 20 of you making and executing great decisions? Employee empowerment is being done today in many organizations, and with amazing results. So let’s get started transforming your team into a decision-making and executing powerhouse.

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Create solution-oriented thinkers
Have you ever had an employee come to you with a problem, and before they were done speaking, you knew what the solution was, and you gave it to them? Allowing your team to present its solution first is the start to creating empowerment. Ask, “What do you think we should do?” Refrain from giving any advice until you hear the team’s answer. If they say they don’t know, keep asking. This may be tough for both of you at first simply because you are the person with the answers, and they are ready to follow orders. But you can’t create a successful team unless you have creative thinkers on it. Most of my teams now come to me with the problem and solution. I’m just giving the nod. Ninety percent of the time, they know what needs to be done and, even if they don’t, letting them talk through it and guiding them is the key.

Give your people more control
Here’s a tough one for many leaders who feel that all major decisions should go through them. At first, when you give up some of your control and allow key people to make decisions you normally do, it’s unnerving. A good way to begin is set a few parameters. We have a few guidelines on pricing, and if it’s between pricing “x” and pricing “y,” our key people can approve or not. Setting parameters on pricing, client decisions, marketing, etc. and letting them run with it is a good way to start.

Let your clients know your team is in charge
Many clients like to talk with the “person in charge,” so they insist on someone with a fancy title showing up. Sometimes I do show up, but I always push the questions and answers to my sales people. If a client asks me for something, I look to my sales people and say, “So, can we do that?” Eventually, the client gets the message that my team is in charge. I also make a point to let the client know, “Pam is in charge here. I just came for the ride.”

Allow them to fail
Here’s where you will either accelerate your success rate or apply the brakes. Your team will make mistakes, sometimes big ones. But haven’t you? Here’s where you need to take a breath, assess, and use your “let-them-find-a-solution” methodology, or you might go into full firefighting mode and not realize it. Afterwards, discuss what happened and how it could have been done differently. Let them know, it’s okay to make mistakes, just not to repeat them. If they fear failure, they will never grow. Handling their mistakes in a positive way is critical to creating teams that will accelerate your success rate.

Let them run meetings
If there are meetings that you normally run, and team members are capable, let them do it. You can be there, but your role is to guide them. Our sales meetings used to be run by the general managers who were more operationally minded then sales-minded. Guess how those went? Now, we let the sales teams run their own meetings, and we have more positive results and discussions.

Celebrate and promote creative thinkers and doers
You need to take time to celebrate wins and celebrate those who bring winning ideas and solutions to your teams. Publicly celebrate the doers, and you will see more people coming to the table to share ideas. It’s a good idea to celebrate an idea you tried, even if it failed. Do this by a comment at a meeting, awards, 
a lunch, or another appropriate place.

Empowering your team by giving them your trust will yield results that positively astound you.

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