Newmeasures: Insights for an exceptional workforce

Building Empowerment

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — your’e right.”

What to Know

Having autonomy is a fundamental human need, so it’s no surprise that it is a key to being engaged at work. People are more likely to be motivated when they have discretion in how they do their work, ownership in what they do, involvement in decisions, and opportunities to voice suggestions or feedback.


Only solicit input for decisions for which you are willing and able to incorporate the feedback. Your employees are smart; they know when you’ve created a false sense of input. Rather than create the illusion of opportunity for “voice” when you know the input will not be considered, find genuine ways to give employees autonomy and control over their work.

What Managers Can Do

Create a culture of empowerment by setting parameters for performance. Then, get out of the way and let employees accomplish their work how they best see fit.

Review decisions that are made on a regular basis. Who makes those decisions? Is there an opportunity to shift the decision-making as close as possible to where the work happens?

Identify who needs to be involved in what kind of decisions and then give as much autonomy to employees for all other topics.

Begin building decision-making skills by presenting scenarios to employees and ask them how they would respond. What factors would the employee consider? Use the dialog as an opportunity to provide coaching.

When making key decisions, it is important to include employees with a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and skills if possible. Consider who you could include in the conversation that you aren’t currently and ensure input comes from diverse viewpoints.

What Employees Can Do

Don’t take it personally when your supervisor or team decides to go a different route than you suggested. What’s important is that your ideas and concerns were heard and considered. Find opportunities to voice your opinions and also keep an open mind to others’ viewpoints.

When you offer a suggestion or idea, make sure to explain your rationale. Let your manager and team in on your thinking — why is your idea a good one; what has been successful and/or failed in the past; how does this idea benefit everyone involved?

Sometimes we’re ready to take on more than our supervisor/manager may think we are ready for. Start small and ask to take on increasingly larger responsibilities or decisions. Build credibility by demonstrating follow-through and that your ideas can be successful. As you build trust with your manager and teammates, they’ll happily enable you to take on more.

What Leadership Can Do

Companies often solicit employee feedback, but then employees don’t get to witness the decision process so they don’t understand what happens with their input. Communicate with employees to assure people that suggestions were received, describe what options you considered, and explain why you went with the final decision.

Many companies struggle to make decisions at the right level of the organization. Decisions should be made as close to the work as possible. Even for strategic, system-wide decisions, consider who you can talk with to gather information, learn about key pain points, and understand perspectives of those actually involved in the work.

Take a look at how you’re spending your time and energy. Are you micromanaging in places where someone else is equipped and ready to take on the work? Are there projects, tasks, or initiatives that you can empower others to own?


Leadership and Motivation: Motivating by Autonomy

The Inside-Out Effect: A Practical Guide to Transformational Leadership by Behnam Tabrizi