Entrepreneurs: How do You Empower Your Employees?
“The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the information about what’s going on so they can do a lot more than they’ve done in the past.”
Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft
Business owners often lament about how much time they spend working in their business. They wonder how they can find more time for family and friends. They long to take a vacation away from their day-to-day business worries. Have you ever thought about ways to empower your employees so you don’t have to be the “answer man” in your organization?
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines empower as “1. to give power or authority to; authorize 2. to give ability to; enable; permit.”
So why is empowering employees important?
Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4 – Hour Workweek said it best in his book:
“If you are a micromanaging entrepreneur, realize that even if you can do something better than the rest of the world, it doesn’t mean that’s what you should be doing if it’s part of the minutiae.”
Business owners who are interested in growing their business can become stagnated. They develop growth plateaus. Not to mention the 50 to 70 hours each week they are working to keep the business viable when they are the focal for solving any issues that may arise during a business day. By enabling, permitting or authorizing employees—empowering employees—to solve problems that are normally solved by the business owner, you free yourself to work on the business and not in it.
How do you empower your employees to act in your best interest?
Here are several ways to ensure employees understand your philosophy about how to run your business, maintain the spirit of the company mission and ensure financial viability.
- Share your vision and mission with your employees
- Maintain an employee handbook (aka Policies and Procedures Manual)
- Improve your communication skills
- Learn motivational factors
- Acknowledge people’s intelligence
- Catch people doing things right
- Be honest with everyone
- Establish conflict resolution procedures
- Educate on responsibilities and accountability
Creating a vision and mission
Vision and mission enable your employees to understand your aspirations for future business. It sets your expectations for serving the marketplace today. Maintaining an employees’ handbook provides clear guidance for what is expected of them. A handbook supports the vision and mission while employees conduct day-to-day business and deal with various circumstances.
Communication is probably the single biggest problem business owners have in empowering their employees. Lack of communication creates less free time for business owners. Quality communication is critical in any organization. But it is crucial to an entrepreneur’s business success. If you can’t tell the story to your employees, vendors and customers of why your business should be successful, you will fail to take them on the journey toward that success you envisioned when you started your business. Learn to communicate well. Use various media to gain the confidence of your employees. Convince them their contribution to the success of the business is important.
Learn what motivates your employees to achieve the vision and goals you’ve established for your organization. Then use it to inspire your workers to great things. It’s amazing how someone’s IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate you trust them. If you believe they can achieve great things and communicate it to them, you will develop incredibly motivated employees. Part of motivation is to catch people doing things right and acknowledging it. Acknowledging success breeds more success.
Another critical element of empowering people is being honest with everyone. If you don’t feel you can tell customers, employees and vendors the naked truth you will lose their respect and devotion. Some business owners believe by not being honest about bad business news they are sparing their employees from anxiety and stress. They hope it will help retain customers and keep loyal vendors. But all they develop is mistrust and fear of the unknown. Always be honest in your business dealings. Be truthful with everyone. Your employees, customers and vendors will stand by you like no other group can.
When you enable or authorize employees to conduct business on your behalf it is often prudent to establish conflict resolution procedures. This helps employees to have consistent guidance in resolving customer, vendor and employee disagreements. Never assume that what you know is right for correcting disagreements is what everyone within and out of your organization knows is right. Take the attitude that if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist as a policy. It will save you a great deal of discomfort when trying to resolve customer service issues.
Finally, educating on responsibilities and accountability will help an employee to know the boundaries within which they are allowed to work for the benefit of your business. Timothy Ferris demonstrated empowerment when he wrote to his outside vendor customer service representatives in an e-mail, after he realized he was becoming overwhelmed with requests for decisions to satisfy customer concerns and requirements as his business grew.