by | Jul 24, 2014

The art of empowerment

I was asked recently if I would share my insights into having people perform at their best.

“It would be cool if you could just speak to how you empower people in a business setting” they asked. It wasn’t as easy as I thought. I had to think really hard as to what it is that I actually do.

But with a coffee under the belt the thinking got going and I started to jot down some thoughts. Here’s some coffee inspired thoughts.

Start with a ridiculous vision

You can’t empower people to perform at their best if they have no idea what the end goal is. Take them into your trust around the vision you have for the business and be outlandish. Move the needle. Frighten. Cheesy as it may be, if your vision doesn’t make people nervous or highly doubtful then it’s not big enough. True Leadership is about setting the general direction and then moving the big rocks out of the way for people, so they can get on and deliver.

Everyone must have Goals and Accountabilities

Set each of your team some clear goals and accountabilities. This is not the time for killing them with detail. If you can’t drop this into say 6 to10 key areas you want them to deliver over a defined period (usually a year) then start again until you can.

Guide by asking questions

Give feedback but never do all the talking. I’m the worst offender here so don’t feel bad if you suffer the same affliction. Just shut your mouth occasionally. It works. If people need some guidance to better achieve their goals always help them make their own decisions. Be unambiguous but gentle. Engage them through questioning. It’s way more powerful if they derive the answer themselves.

Let them know you care

People get one life and they are spending it working with you. Show them you genuinely care about them and their successes. Work with them on their development plans. I love people following their dreams and passions and want the people that work with me to be doing the same. Everyone needs to have fun. Yes it rains some days but make sure there are way more sunny days.

Reward them

Pay your people properly and then go and treat them occasionally. Take them out for lunch or a drink. Say the little things that mean something important. Do it regularly. When big goals are achieved make sure you celebrate properly. Life is a party after all.


You know what it feels like to be trusted. Make sure you return the favour. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up being able to trust. Yes you occasionally get burnt but hey that’s life. Trusting is a much better way to live life. It’s less stressful. So give trust back to those who you manage. Let them succeed without getting in their face. Give them space.

Delegate some big stuff

Nothing beats the taste of meaningful success. Don’t just delegate the small stuff. Empowerment means letting people make decisions that are truly impactful.

Give people what they need

Nothing frustrates people more than being asked to do something without giving them the tools to do the job. Always make sure the office environment is good. Take a leaf out of some of the cool kid tech company start-ups that really know about company culture. Provide good gear to work with. Don’t be Scrooge McDuck and have your people using old equipment.


Set the vision. Demonstrate to people what they each need to deliver. Give them what they need. Remove their big obstacles. Then get out of the way.

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