Empowered employees make successful project teams. In project management, and elsewhere, empowered employees make for strong, self-reliant, engaged and effective teams. Regardless of the size of the company, confident self-reliant employees are the key to creating and sustaining innovation and to achieving success.
Employees should be provided with the right tools and training, of course, but then management should take a step back. They should allow employees to explore and innovate, to take risks and challenge assumptions, to problem-solve, make decisions, imagine, and create.
These employees typically have the subject-matter expertise they need to be successful. Often, however, they are micromanaged such that their expertise is not fully utilized. What they may be missing is the opportunity to think more creatively, problem-solve and make crucial decisions on their own and in their teams. They can do this instead of waiting for and relying on oversight and approval from management.
1. Management should delegate
Delegation of ownership is much more motivating, empowering and satisfying for employees. And it leads to much more creative outcomes. Enabling employees to be the decision-makers creates an ownership interest in the project that opens up possibilities for success that would not exist otherwise.
Without the oppressive micromanagement of every decision, employees become free to use their skills more fully and to open up more possibilities for success with the project. Giving employees the freedom to make decisions within the scope of their work will lead to results and create more successful project teams.
2. Focus first on employees who have empowerment potential
Initially, you should identify the people on the team who demonstrate the potential to embrace the empowered role. These employees may be those who have in the past taken pride in what they have created for the company. They should be articulate and comfortable speaking up. They should value making an impact.
Focus on these team members first, giving them the authority to make decisions. Then, recognize them publicly for their accomplishments. These team members will serve as an example that others will want to emulate. Soon, other employees will begin to take their own initiative and eventually earn the trust necessary for management to empower them as well.
3. Don’t wait to give feedback
Annual reviews are inadequate to provide the timely feedback necessary to fully empower your employees. When newly empowered employees begin to take more initiative, they need more timely feedback to maintain their comfort level on that empowered path. A lack of timely feedback may make employees cautious about taking chances. Ideally, management would provide feedback to each person after a project is completed (or a stage of the project is completed).
Let each employee know what he or she did well, where there is room for improvement, and provide specific feedback on the initiative taken on the project. These timely reviews help strengthen the feedback loop that encourages employees to grow into their empowered roles.
4. Invest time and money in training for new systems
A strong investment in the training and onboarding of new systems, software or processes is an investment in your empowered team. Your employees should be fully comfortable with all new systems. If they are not, the benefits of the new systems will not be fully realized, and your employees will waste valuable time and energy acclimating to the new systems rather than utilizing that time and energy on the project at hand.
5. Give employees time to innovate
Provide dedicated time for your employees to think creatively and innovate. This builds a framework within your team that supports creativity and innovation, and creates a climate in which your employees will be comfortable taking the time to think outside the box.
6. Consider the size of your team
Much has been written about the ideal size of successful project teams. Employees may feel lost on a team that is too large and unwieldy. Smaller teams provide a good environment for meaningful work.
Empowered employees in a right-sized team will turn to other empowered employees on the team for feedback or support. This creates an environment that is more personal, secure, and one that facilitates support, shared experiences, challenges, and successes.
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