Empower employees to make good decisions

Team members actively engaged in decision-making tend to stay with a company that appreciates them. They feel valued and are motivated to do what’s best for the company. Employees who aren’t empowered often feel as though they are cogs in a machine and look for a way out. 

Process and results

When it comes to decision-making, the process is almost as important as the results and involves your hands-on participation with team members. First, determine where team members can best contribute their ideas and influence the outcome of projects. Set up a process to review the decisions they make, and only intervene when their decisions affect other departments. Identify the person who will be in charge and the scope of his or her responsibility.

Here’s how you can help team members become comfortable with the power they are given: 

  • Provide information they need to make informed decisions.
  • Meet with them at appointed times so they can explain how they came to their decisions.
  • Review what’s working and what is not.
  • Be available to answer questions and address concerns.

Newly empowered team members may feel anxious about making decisions on their own, fearing the wrong move may result in the loss of their job. That’s why they tend to make safe decisions, not necessarily the right ones, at least at first.

Your job as manager is to foster their growth without fear of negative consequences. Let team members make their own decisions about how to complete a task and what resources to use. Their decisions may differ from what you would have done, but that’s part of growing (for both of you). Avoid second-guessing them or they will quickly lose motivation for working problems out on their own.

People have to empower themselves

Here are examples of how some world-class businesses have empowered their teams, as noted by Bright Hub:

  • Employees at Xerox are given the power to do what’s needed, subject “only to the boundaries of morals, ethics, law, process capability and price exposure.” There are no reprisals for making a mistake. 
  • At Yum Brands Inc. employees can make any decision up to $15 (the cost of a large pizza). This includes offering a dissatisfied customer a discount on an order or giving a free soda and salad to a customer who had to wait longer than usual.

Teams empowered to make decisions have attained annual inventory-level reductions of $6 million at Johnson & Johnson and reduced service errors by 13 percent at FedEx. 

Marshall Goldsmith, considered among the world’s leading educators and coaches, strongly advocates building what he calls “an empowering environment.” According to Goldsmith, team members should work just as hard as their manager to create this environment.

“People have to empower themselves,” he says. “Your role is to encourage and support the decision-making environment and to give employees the tools and knowledge they need to make and act upon their own decisions. By doing this, you help your employees reach an empowered state.”