If you are a small-business owner, you have probably learned several important lessons over time, including the fact that you simply cannot do everything yourself. It is not easy letting go and empowering employees to do meaningful work in your stead. It requires a high level of trust on both ends of the relationship.
What is the best way to go about it? Of course, the particulars will vary according to the personalities and the nature of the business, but here are some practical suggestions you might follow:
• Share your vision. It is difficult for employees to meet your expectations if they do not have a clear understanding of what it is you are trying to accomplish. This applies both to the overall mission of the company and to specific tasks. Realize that the methodology may not always match your own—no two people work exactly the same way all the time—but the results are what matter most. Spend time with your employees to share your vision and plan strategy together!
• Provide incentives. You care deeply about your business because it is your company. Although you can expect some loyalty and dedication from employees, they do not have the same vested interests you have. With that in mind, you might offer some incentives to employees ($$ rewards or time off) who will be stepping into your shoes. Also, you may agree to promote an employee or create a path for advancement within the firm. This could be especially important to someone who you have not yet shared what you have planned for them down the road. Let your key employees know where and how they fit in with your long term plans and engage with them.
• Present a challenge. Usually, workers are hired to fulfill specific roles based on their capabilities, but after a while, they become somewhat stationary in their output. Offering them leadership responsibilities and other opportunities will likely stimulate their creative interests and could result in some of their best work. More often than not, you will find that employees will rise to the challenge. Figure out how best to utilize their skillset in a new and challenging format—and ask them to take it on! This is a great opportunity to build confidence and renew passio.
• Establish reasonable standards. Employees will find it helpful if you set goals and establish a way to measure their performance. Be realistic about what you expect them to achieve. Performance does not always need to be quantified (e.g., using a grading scale), but employees will benefit from some feedback and, if needed, constructive criticism. Ask your employees to collaborate with you and set their own goals and objectives for the coming year and have them self-assess at the end of the year. This will help them feel like they are part of the process and you value their opinions while factoring in your own means for measuring performance.
• Get out of their way. Finally, the worst thing you can do is hover in the background or micromanage the situation. Once you have established the basic parameters, let employees operate without any significant encumbrances. Naturally, depending on the circumstances, some restrictions may be required. But you have given them the job; now let them do it.
Empowering employees can be beneficial to the long-term growth of your firm. In addition, you can attract better talent and retain those workers if they see empowerment as part of the job. Reminder: together you can do great things!