What is it exactly that influences the empowerment team members feel?
Is it their successes and accomplishments?
Is it the unity of the team members?
Is it the compensation they receive for a job well done?
Is it the ways they are developed personally and professionally throughout their tenure with the team?
While all those things are components of an empowered team member, the onus for the feeling of empowerment may not reside with the team member at all. The leader sets the pace for the team and can make all the difference in how the team members are feeling during the course of any given day. While it is not the job of the team leader to control the emotions of their team members, leaders can certainly foster an environment where team members can thrive in contributing their strengths to the overall vision and mission of the team’s organization.
How can we create an atmosphere in which our team members can feel empowered and thrive?
Give Clear Direction.
Team members need to know what is expected of them. When I was new to cross-cultural ministry, before I had learned about culture and communication in a nation that was not my own, I often felt very confused when working with my team. The leader of my team had clear objectives in his mind, but he did not communicate them in a way that I heard or understood. I was left to create my own expectations, set my own goals, measure my own progress, and then take the initiative to check in with him whenever he was available. Let’s just say that I did not thrive in that environment.
Years later, when I was the leader, I recalled those dark days of operating in isolation. Because I didn’t want that to happen to those on my team, I made sure that my team members had job descriptions but also were able to discuss with me how to get started and go about the work they had been given to do. An open dialogue at the beginning of any new project produced benefits in the effectiveness of my team.
Team leaders must take the time and put in the required effort to give clear directions to their team members in advance of any work toward the team’s goals and objectives. Being available for clarification is also key. Yes, your team members have work to do, but they will feel empowered from the start if the leadership gives them all the tools and direction they need to accomplish great things.
Give them space.
There’s nothing worse than a micro-manager. We all know the type: someone gives you a job, and then either stands over you while you try to do the job, or they take the task in their own hands and do it themselves. Micro-managing is not an effective way to help your team members feel empowered. Empowered team members are allowed to do the job on their own, taking a stab at it with their own methods, their own skills, their own shared experience. Team members need space. They need time. They need a team leader who is patient and willing to wait for team members to accomplish given objectives in their own timing. Team members need a team leader who has a tolerance for mistakes and errors in judgment. Team members need to be pushed toward excellence, while at the same time being allowed to try two or three times before they achieve perfection. Team members need to feel trusted in order to feel empowered. A micro-managing team leader sows distrust, a quality that threatens team morale and team unity, as well as the reputation of the leader. In the end, the team member who is given space to succeed will indeed do just that.
Toward the end of my tenure serving overseas, my team leader gave me a big goal. It was a goal that seemed out of reach and yet just tantalizing enough to make me want to try to reach it. After he gave me the goal, he gave me clear direction on how he expected me to go about trying to reach the goal. He checked in with me personally, as well as remotely, and required me to submit monthly activity reports. He applauded my efforts at reaching the goal, as well as continued to give direction and suggestion when he saw that I needed a little help. He accepted my methods, even when I knew that he would not have chosen the same way to go about my work. Have I met the seemingly unattainable goal? Not yet. But I’m still trying very hard and feel that somehow I’m going to reach the goal. It is mainly because of the confidence and trust that my leader has put in me that I feel that way. I am an empowered team member, excited to play my part.