• December 1, 2022

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There’s no end to the number of programs, initiatives, and other suggestions out there to keep employees interested and engaged. And yet, sometimes the best answer isn’t to add layers of complexity to a leadership strategy.

Managers who can master the art of purposeful empowerment and tactful accountability can infuse their staff with a new sense of life, focus, and purpose. Here are a few thoughts on how to let up on the reins in the workplace in the name of fostering effective employee engagement.

Start with Crystal Clear Communication

Communication is one of the most harped-on aspects of good management. And yet, when asked, 44% of knowledge workers reported that their companies have no standards for communication in the workplace. Not surprisingly, a lack of communication can feed into a sense of disconnect and apathy. Conversely, leaders who establish clear lines of communication don’t just create a better workplace. They can also effectively empower their staff.

When trying to empower your workforce, start with standardized communication. In other words, don’t just have a quick meeting to “talk things through.” Communicate specific pieces of information to your staff.

One of the most obvious items that need thorough attention is team goals and objectives. A recent report released by McChrystal Group found that when a leader articulates not just what their team has to do but how that contributes to broader company objectives, it leads to 26% higher engagement from team members. The report also found that when leaders communicate actionable strategies to employees, it boosts engagement by a further 33%.

From broad-stroke elements to individual details, standardize your communication if you want to truly empower your employees.

Deliberately Delegate Responsibility

Communication is an essential first step. But you need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. The ability to delegate well is as rare as it is important. How rare are we talking about here?

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John Hunt famously painted a bleak picture of the state of delegation in the workplace. The London business school professor said that just 30% of managers self-identify as good delegators. To make matters worse, the staff members of those individuals consider just one-third of them to delegate well.

Empowering employees requires a deliberate and clear effort. You can do this by:

  • Defining each task and its objectives.
  • Finding the right person for that task.
  • Giving the individual clear instructions.
  • Providing any training or filling knowledge gaps to equip them to do the job well.
  • Following up and reviewing with the subordinate to ensure they’re meeting goals.

That last item isn’t just a step in the delegation process. Thoughtful accountability is also a central aspect of healthy empowerment — which is why we need to give it a little more attention.

Set Up Clear Standards of Accountability

Delegation only empowers someone if they are trusted with the responsibility of a task. If you hover over them, helicopter parent style, you aren’t delegating. You’re babysitting.

With that said, you also need to manage your team and ensure that you collectively reach your goals. Indeed suggests several ways to hold employees accountable without allowing micromanaging tendencies to creep into the picture.

For instance, along with setting clear goals (covered above), the recruitment site also suggests measuring quantifiable progress and providing consistent feedback. It’s also important to treat everyone equally, be firm, and own your own mistakes. By holding your employees accountable for their success and failure, you foster a sense of trust, camaraderie, and fulfillment.

From standardized communication to deliberate delegation to honest accountability, there are many ways to empower your staff. This has the important side effect of inviting them into your team’s activities and fostering a better sense of engagement — not through some trending program or initiative, but through a genuine sense of trust and interdependence on one another as a team of like-minded professionals working toward the same goals.

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