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November 2021

Nine ways to… empower your people

9 hands

One of the great paradoxes of life is that in giving, we receive. In empowering others, we give power to ourselves. It is a weird principle, but the older I get, the more I realise its truth. If you want to be adored by many people, first, you have to shine the spotlight on them. If you want wealth, you have to invest. If you want to create, you have to engage with and honour the creations and innovations of others. And so on and so forth. So, appropriately, today I wanted to share with you some key ways that you can empower others. We have selected nine methods, because, in fact there are nine motivators! If you do these nine things, then you are really going to be covering all the potential bases, and appealing to every type of motivator.

  1. Have a leader prepared to change the culture (Searcher)

Your motivational profile not only tells us how motivated you are—or another word for this might be “energised”—in your current role, but it also gives us an indication of how “change friendly” or “change averse” you might be. Unfortunately, many leaders are actually very change averse in a real sense, which means they will actively block perceived threats to the established workplace culture: they hire the same types of people, they use the same working methodologies even if they are outdated, and they manage with the same top-down style management approach that has proved largely ineffective for the last 60 years. Many leaders try to show willing by implementing small changes: re-arranging the office seating, or introducing a new piece of software here and there (there has been a particular craze at the moment for internal work-specific social media sites, for reasons unknown!). However, the kind of change that is often needed is of a far deeper kind.

As new generations show up to work with new expectations, and as the landscape of business is continually transformed by innovation, technology, and the rise and fall of corporate empires, we cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting good results. If we want to succeed, we need to empower our people. In order to empower our people, we have to be willing to allow the culture of our workplace to change. Or, even better, to spearhead the charge. It’s important, however, that this is not done in a way that tramples over people. Take note of point 5 on this list, and you will be in a far better position!

  1. Build a management team who share the vision (Spirit)

 The most important thing isn’t the method, it’s the mission. Most businesses spend weeks and weeks trying to establish whether someone has the right technical skills for the job, and then subsequently drilling deadlines and objectives into them, but they do not really delve very deeply into who they are as a person and whether they understand the “mission”. Not just the daily and weekly goals, but the actual mission of the organisation, whether that is to become pre-eminent in a field, to help one-million people, or anything in between. When everyone within a team, particularly a management or highly responsible team, is “on mission” and aligned with the ultimate aim, then things will start falling into place. The key is to place less emphasis on how they perform their tasks. Give them the mission statement, and then let them fulfil their objectives in their own way. So long as you are “singing from the same hymn book”, alignment and results will follow.

  1. Ensure your top people are top communicators (Star)

 Communication is key. This is a well-worn adage. However, it is so popular because it’s incredibly true. So many problems occur in the workplace (and indeed outside it!) due to poor communication, whether that is a goal or deadline that has not been clearly explained, a complex process that was glossed over in training, or, far more importantly, a major decision that is going to impact employees which has not been clarified by upper management. This also applies externally as well. When communicating with clients, customers, stakeholders, and investors, poor communication can be catastrophic. Therefore, when considering your appointments and promotions, be sure to pay close attention to whether you are making these appointments based on hard skills, or their abilities as communicators, and ask yourself which is truly more important. Who are your Star people, who shine radiantly when they have an audience?

  1. Train people in skills that are key to your business (Expert)

Whilst we have advocated strongly for what some people call “soft skills”, such as communication, make no mistake that it’s important to train your people! Especially the Experts who are vital to the running of your business, whether they are programmers, financial advisors, sales experts, marketers, or designers—whatever their unique skillset, develop it further! Experts often enjoy the acquisition of knowledge, and sometimes this is more valuable to them even than money! So, if you reward them for their efforts with further training, not only will their enhanced abilities serve the business’s aims, but it will also endear them to the company that feeds their hunger. Finally, there is another common idiom in business worth bearing in mind: “What if I train my people and then they leave?” The reply being, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

  1. Build trust with your people by listening to them (Friend)

Most businesses do not listen to their employees. They conduct surveys. They tick the boxes. But they do not actually sit down and really “hear” what they are being told. This normally means that, at some stage, disaster overtakes the company. To the “top brass”, it seems to happen suddenly and without warning. It comes as no surprise to the people on the ground, because they have been warning about it for some time!

In businesses / organisations where people feel listened to, and there are strong relationships between upper management and those “on the ground”, a sense of community and teamwork more easily evolves. Teamwork leads to communication. Communication means less blindspots and likelihood of error. It also means that the machine is oiled, running far more smoothly than if everyone is operating in a silo, or under the impression that management only take an interest in them when there’s a problem! The latter leads to secrecy which leads, needless to say, to big problems down the line. Learn to listen, and all of this can be averted.

  1. Fix things that don’t work (Defender)

 In many ways this connects to the previous suggestion. I have worked in many companies where the employees continually raised issues, such as: there was a software system that kept crashing, or a toilet that was broken, or a telephone that had some kind of crossed wire and didn’t feed calls properly. Yet, these very small problems were constantly ignored, because they were considered unimportant. Over time, they completely wore the staff down and, small though they were, led to many quitting!! “Management don’t care about me, they cannot even be bothered to fix a toilet, it’s a basic human comfort,” was the sentiment they were left with after working for these organisations. Small things matter. In the words of Sherlock Holmes, “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

  1. Give your supervisors real power (Director)

 Some people enjoy responsibility. I am not one of them, as it happens! But because of the Motivational Maps, I understand that for some having responsibility over people, financial resources, or inventory is not a headache or a stressor, but a real pleasure. They feel energised by having control. If you have supervisors like this, who really relish the chance to take responsibility and properly manage their teams or resources, then the worst thing you can do is micromanage them and take away power from them. If you have hired someone to be a supervisor, presumably you trust them sufficiently to run the operational side of things. Let go, give them real power, and if they overstep the mark, at that point you can always rein them in. But often you will find they respect the authority they have been given, and simply wish to wield it to efficacious purpose. Not only does this free up time for you, but by empowering your supervisors, you will get the best possible work, commitment, and energy out of them.

  1. Give people the budget to go with responsibility (Builder)

Often, organisations ask people to achieve goals without the necessary resources, particularly finances, to support those endeavours. A simplified version of what I said in the introduction is that we have to spend money to make money. If you want your sales team to reach ten thousand new customers, but you are unwilling to reward them with a commission, or to hire enough salespeople to get the calls done, then it’s likely you will fail. If your sales team need to drive all over the country, but you’re unwilling to pay for their fuel, then you will see them only doing the bare minimum to save on costs, or quitting (if this example seems outlandish, note that I worked for a company that did exactly this!). We have to give people the budget and backing to do what they need to do. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail—another common but wise adage. When we don’t give people financial resources, we are not adequately preparing them.

  1. Make innovation a core part of everyone’s job (Creator)

Peter Drucker once observed that only two things actually made money for a business: marketing and innovation. Whilst not everyone is motivated by creativity in a big way—such as making new products or coming up with radical new ideas for the organisation—every person can play a small role in improving the company, by however a small a margin. If every person is looking to improve their own personal process, or perhaps one small element, then soon all these small improvements or micro-innovations add up to a big difference, whether in efficiency, customer-experience, or something else. However, people will not innovate, whether small-scale or large-scale, if they don’t feel that innovation is encouraged. How many businesses actively discourage their employees from contributing new ideas? (This comes back again to point number 5, and listening to what people have to say). It also connects to point number 7, and giving people real power and responsibility. If people feel they are in charge, that they can control their own destiny and work practices, rather than having it dictated to them by a micro-manager, then they are far more likely to begin to make proactive changes rather than waiting for the “official line” from on high. If every person in your company is innovating, then you are maximising human potential on a grand scale, and a new and brilliant idea could come from any corner.

I hope these nine suggestions for empowering your people gives you some actionable concepts to make your workplace more dynamic, more innovative, and most importantly: more motivated! To find out more about motivation and Motivational Maps contact one of our Motivational Map Practitioners