What stops us from empowering our people? Is it fear, a lack of trust…or something else?

Traci Barrett, President and Founder of Navigate the Journey, knows it can be tough to loosen the reigns and entrust your business to your team. As a leadership and strategic consultant, Traci has helped teams big and small to create environments of shared ownership and mutual success. Traci joined us on The Bureau Briefing to outline steps you can take to foster a culture of empowerment.

As a digital agency owner, it can be frustrating to feel like you’re alone in caring for your company. You may have wanted to Hulk Smash around your shop a time or two, when people look to you for answers you feel they should already know, leave on time when you’re stuck working late or expect you to bail them out, again and again. How do people not know what’s expected of them? How do they not know what you’re all working towards together? If you’ve told them once, you’ve told them a million…

Wait, you did tell them, didn’t you?

1. Articulate Your Vision, Mission, Values & Strategy

If you haven’t articulated your guiding stars, it’s time. To create a culture of empowerment, start with the place you want to reach.

Traci likens it to the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. With a destination, you have focus. You can anticipate the curves ahead, and make moves to keep things on track. On a treadmill, you’re just a crazed hamster, speeding up and slowing down without really getting anywhere.

There’s an enormous amount of satisfaction in reaching a destination. Give your team goals and guidance. People need to know what you want as an owner. They need to know what the company needs, and what the ultimate goals are. People can’t make good decisions if they don’t have good context.

Rope in your team to help you shape your vision, mission, values and strategy for the year. Working together, you’ll create buy-in and get closer to empowering your people in a way that helps them really own their roles.

2. Step Back So People Can Step Up

In order for your people to step up, you need to step back. Empowerment is not about delegating tasks and sitting back to monitor results. It’s infusing your entire team with a sense of shared responsibility for the business.

Empowering people means giving them authority with responsibility. Without authority, you’re just giving them a list of to-dos. You’re giving them the opposite of empowerment. You’re giving them discouragement.

Give people the power and flexibility to own their own projects. Give them the space to learn and grow from their mistakes. Be available to help, show people that you care about them and give your team a safe environment to ask questions and receive guidance.


3. Support Your People

Let’s say you get a call. A client is frustrated, or worse, really, really angry. As an owner, you could throw your team under the bus. But you don’t—because everything rolls up to you as a leader. Running a team, business or project isn’t easy. Everyone makes mistakes.

You’ll need to take some responsibility for your people, and help smooth things out. Communicate a sense of fairness to your client. Yes, you hear them. Yes, their concerns will be addressed. Then go back to your team to find out more about what’s going on. Ask questions. Redirect and advise as needed.

And when things are good, be good to your people. Encourage them. Say “thank you.” It costs nothing to say thanks, but pays dividends in improved morale and productivity.

4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Mission, vision and values are the rudder for your ship. Keep articulating them and your strategy, so execution aligns. It might feel awkward to constantly repeat yourself, but people need to hear you say it over and over again: “This is who we are. This is what we’re going to do.”

Communication will give you and your team a huge sense of relief. People will know the objectives of their jobs individually, and understand your organization as a whole. Communication gives people motivation and energy as well as a greater sense of belonging and purpose.

5. Come from a Place of Curiosity

If your gut tells you something isn’t right, it’s okay to step in. It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it. You can enter into a situation with a high level of control, or come from a place of curiosity. Choose the latter. If you step in more curious than certain about what’s going on, you can garner more open and honest feedback from your team. Approach with curiosity and have a dialogue filled with questions. There’s always more than one right answer. There’s always more than one way of looking at things.

6. Show Character & Humility

Character and humility are two of the most important and valued traits for leaders. Realize that you don’t have to know everything, and can learn from your people. As an owner, you can be human, and show some vulnerability. Enter into honest conversations and build on reciprocal relationships and mutual trust.

Your Journey to Empowerment

Where are you on your road to empowerment? Do you have a vision or mission statement that you love that you’ve crafted with your team? Are you implementing any new onboarding or process steps to empower your people? Tell us what you have going on, and any insights you’d like to share as an owner—or as a team member.