Even with good intentions, empowering your employees should be executed correctly. If not properly executed, unintended consequences may occur. Some business leaders give employees room to decide about the business, which can lead to more innovation through greater engagement and initiative. However, a manager needs to be careful about giving employees autonomy but leaving them alone to their own devices. It may seem like a contradiction but empowering your employees usually requires more supervisor employment.
The thinking in business/management circles and academia was that a manager’s style consisted of being “hands on” or “hands off”. As we experience and learn more, we realize that “theory X management” (micromanaging) reduces independent thought and engagement. However, a “Laissez-faire” (hands off) style of management rarely works either. Frequently, a manager keeps his distance until a deadline passes or something else goes wrong. Then, the hands-off manager takes over once again. He/she then leads with the same command-and-control type style the company was trying to avoid from the start.
Managing by empowerment and leading is a third style choice that balances theory X management and Laissez-faire style management. Managing and leading through empowerment lets a manager stay involved while he/she lets go of his/her need to control. Realize that this is a delicate balance. Some managers take a “cheerleader” approach–they mostly stay hands off, but periodically swoop in to give employees an overdose of compliments.
To foster empowerment, it should involve leaders. This involvement includes coaching, mentoring, guiding, and inspiring. While this may seem to be less work than an autocratic, controlling style, it really means more frequent interactions. These interactions should differ from the controlling and autocratic style of theory X management. Common frustrations for managers seeking to use an empowering style is increased job time and flawed decision-making. However, when employees can make decisions and get coaching from leaders, the results will be higher-quality along with increased speed of decisions.
Employee empowerment is a trendy buzzword, but it takes much work to implement. For example, if a company falls behind schedule, it tempts managers to go back to a “co-dependent relationship” with their employees. Performance evaluation systems reward results, but they also reward avoidance of failure.