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“Is your team happy?”

As a manager, you want to think you’re doing a great job of empowering your team and facilitating their best work. But before you answer, “Of course my team is happy!” or “Well, I think they are,” — take a second and really think of what you’ve done lately to motivate, or to inspire, or to excite your team.

It’s easy to fall into a rut. Even the most involved managers run out of ideas for how to keep their team engaged and thriving every once in a while.

And when that happens, employees start to look elsewhere for opportunities where they’ll feel appreciated and challenged. To your business, this translates to thousands (or even millions) of dollars lost to replacing employees who’ve decided to move on. On the flip side, companies with high employee engagement, on average, experience a 19.2% increase in operating income.

Really effective managers are always just offstage, helping the members of their team members shine in the spotlight. They inspire. They challenge easy answers and draw out the very best from their team. They motivate people to do their best work — without stepping in and taking credit for getting them there.

So what can you do to empower your team? Here’s what they want:

  • 25% of employees say greater clarity about what the organization needs from them and why would spark better performance
  • 23% say development opportunities would help
  • 14% ask for more regular, specific feedback about their job performance

What does this looks like for you? And how you can begin to grow a team of motivated, engaged employees doing their best work yet? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Employees appreciate when leaders make an investment in them — even better when the leader suggests additional learning before the employee feels they need to ask. This can be as simple as a book or paid registration in an online course. A relatively small investment of cash can result in huge rewards in the form of an engaged — and more knowledgeable — employee.

When people have meaningful, upward-focused relationships at work, they’re more committed and engaged with their day-to-day activity. Can you mentor people on your team? Who can you refer them to, inside your organization and out of it?

Do you know what every member of your team wants to be doing in 1 year? 5 years? Set goals and check in with them regularly. Encourage your team to record their goals, and help them draft plans for achieving them in their current role. Check on with their progress, and ask them directly if there’s any way you can help.

One on ones.
A boss who knows what an employee is doing all day, and why, and who can explain exactly how that work impact the big picture direction of the company is a huge factor in that employee feeling like they are part of an organization that values and appreciate them. Plus, expressing an interest in your team builds trust — after all, who doesn’t like being asked how things are going with them?

Good news.
How often do you send your team an email out of the blue, thanking them for great work on a project? It’s the nature of a lot of work that the million good things you do all day pass by with little acknowledgement, while the errors and problems you hear back about immediately. Change the way you interact with your team, and send a little good news — a thank you, positive feedback from your leadership, a customer comment — every once in a while.

Everyone needs a break sometimes, and people are more engaged when they get one. Create an atmosphere where taking a break is allowed, by providing opportunities for employees to unwind a little during and after work. From happy hours to one-minute desk dance parties, it doesn’t take a lot to remind people they don’t have to slave away 24 hours a day. You just have to do *something*.

This isn’t always in your power to grant, but allowing employees flexibility to work at home or spend time on their own projects is an incredibly empowering thing you can give to your team. Can you put the engineer who’s interested in project management on an independent project to bulk up her skills? Can you let the night owl adjust his schedule so he can work during his peak productivity hours?

One of the hardest things about being a manager is giving up things you want so that people on your team can take advantage of them instead. Tickets to conferences, speaking opportunities, guest posting positions — all of these things can help ambitious people on your team grow their profile and experience. If you’re actively seeking these opportunities for your team and supporting them in their pursuits, they’ll notice and, odds are, they’ll work harder for them.

One of the biggest things to remember is that your team is made up of individuals, so empowering them with almost certainly mean different things for different people. Investing in individual employees will pay you back in a much bigger way than trying to make blanket policies apply to everyone.

What matters most is that you try. What can you do today to improve the lives of the people you lead?

Tags: leadership, retention, team,


  1.  Are You Empowering Your Team? | ASAP Canada Staffing