3 Tips for Empowering Your Team Members

Want your people to step up and help grow your organization? Then step back and stop giving them all the answers!

According to UT Austin psychology professor, Art Markman, a good boss should ignore you!

While you may prefer to have a highly responsive boss, psychologists believe that highly responsive bosses might actually be doing a disservice to employees and hurting their development. The more managers respond immediately to questions from their direct reports, the more their staffers will come to rely on them to always have the answers.

But when bosses delay their response by a few hours, staffers may learn to find answers on their own, allowing them to build their own leadership muscles. 

By stepping back you:

  • Teach your employees to be resourceful
  • Empower your team members become better leaders
  • Help team members collaborate with others

Here are three ways to step back:

1. Don’t always be available

Believe it or not, it’s OK to work behind closed doors sometimes. Schedule time on your calendar not to be interrupted unless there is a true emergency.  This actually helps your employees to have time to think of solutions on their own. If they come to you with a problem and you feel like they might need a little extra support, don’t give in too easily.  Instead refer them to someone on your team who you know would be a great resource.  Keep in mind that you don’t want your employees feeling like you’re abandoning them so try saying something like, “I’m actually in the middle of something that I need to finish ASAP, but I’m available today after 1pm, in the meantime can you investigate some potential solutions – maybe even pull Mary aside and see what she thinks about your ideas. I’ll be happy to sit down later and see what you two came up with together.”

2. Stop giving out all the answers

I know it feels good to help your team members but trust me you’ll be helping them more if you help them discover the right answers on their own by asking some great questions. Follow these simple tips:

  • Listen before you respond.
  • Think of yourself as a sounding board. You are there to help employees solve their own problems instead of telling them what to do.
  • Ask clarifying questions!
  • Use open-ended questions, not closed-ended questions.

What were the factors that led to this problem?

What are your thoughts on how to best solve this challenge?

What outcomes are you looking for that point to success?

What might get in the way of achieving those actions you have identified?

  • Respond to questions with softening statements and probing questions.

Great question, why do you ask?

Interesting, what do you think?

Hmm, well what have you tried?

3. Provide Ongoing Support

To eliminate crisis mode – for yourself and your supervisors create opportunities for ongoing development.  This can be formal or informal.  Whether you’re sending your employees calendar invites for meetings, or just blocking off time on your own calendar to make sure you are proactively checking in with your team members to see how you might be able to support them, they will be less inclined to come running to you as soon as they have a problem.  Your team members will have a better sense of what a crisis is vs. something that can be discussed at a later date and time (if appropriate!)

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