by Colleen Cormier, Account Executive for On The Mark Strategies

This is the second post in a series about qualities that define great leaders and how you can live those qualities in the workplace.

When I worked at a credit union many years ago, I reported to a wonderful leader who did so much to help me flourish and grow in my career. In many ways, I owe my career path to Lori Daniel. She was a fantastic role model and figured out very quickly in her leadership role that surrounding herself with a team of people who were good at what they did was the best way to be successful.

“A leader can’t be an expert in all areas, so a good one will hire the right people who are great at what they do, and then get out of the way and let them do it,” said Daniel, owner of The Daniel Group, a promotional products company. “For example, I have never been a numbers person but if I am in charge of a budget or determining the profitability of a marketing campaign, I need to make sure there is a numbers expert on my team to oversee those left-brain type of activities that are not in my comfort zone. A good leader will also NOT hire like-minded people. It’s important to have different personalities, backgrounds and viewpoints represented within the team.”

If you read the first post in our leadership series, you know “bad bosses” are the number one reason people leave their jobs. Typically, these bad bosses fail to make their employees feel valued, violate a trust, take credit for work they don’t do and/or fail to empower their employees (among other things).

Empowering employees is challenging for leaders who are not comfortable relinquishing control. However, when you empower your employees to take on tasks and make responsible decisions, you take pressure off yourself. You clear up time to focus on other things they cannot do. You make them feel important.

“Most employees want to be empowered and given the opportunity, they will run with it and thrive. Those rare gems make a leader’s job a breeze,” said Daniel.

Here are three ways to help empower your employees.

  1. Trust them to do the job they were hired to do

Think about it this way. Why did you hire these people if you didn’t find them capable of doing the job? If you have put in place a team of experts, and you have properly trained them and communicated expectations, give them the opportunity to show you what they can do.

  1. Provide the tools and information they need to make decisions

Empowerment doesn’t mean you give up all control. You’re still the leader. Train them and give them the right tools to make good decisions. Whenever they come to you with a question, ask them what they think the solution is. After they respond, give them your answer. By doing this, you help them grow and reduce the amount of responsibility on your shoulders.

“You have to let people know that you are there if and when they do need help,” Daniel said. “It’s also important for leaders to give their team the tools they need to effectively do their job (training, budget, supplies, resources, staffing, etc.).”

  1. Delegate authority and provide opportunities

Don’t just delegate the grunge work. That’s not empowerment. Delegate decision-making opportunities like taking your place in meetings or on teams and committees. Involve them in projects that expose them to new ideas. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Add new responsibilities gradually as they prove themselves capable of handling more.

As cliché as it sounds, a team and its leader are only as strong as their weakest link. Don’t let that link be your leadership. Like Daniel says “Well-trained, empowered employees working in a team environment makes a business more successful. Satisfied employees + satisfied customers = increased profitability.”