Today, I want to talk about performance enablement and empowerment, though traditionally the conversation would be around performance management. I believe we need to stop managing performance because just from the definition of management, which is about “controlling and making decisions”, we are hindering our efforts to maximize performance. So, instead, think about performance enablement and empowerment – two words that really get into what our role in performance should be.

Let’s also consider exactly what performance is. Performance is defined by two considerations, 1 – the desired or needed results, and 2 – the way in which the results are achieved. It is important that we do not just think of performance in terms of “how much” is delivered, because then we have a situation where staff only focus on results, regardless of how they get them—even if it is to the detriment of others on the team and to professional ethics. Performance metrics need to be aligned with the team or department as well as the objectives and the values of the company.

Let’s begin by talking about performance enablement. To enable your people effectively, you must provide the following:

  • Training: Continually develop good work habits and skills through a combination of classroom, online, and on-the-job training.
  • Tools to do the job: Ensure your people have the things they need to do their job well. As a manager, this is one of your main responsibilities – ensure there is a process in place that gets the necessary tools to your team on time and at the right time.
  • The right information: Managers need to be forthcoming and transparent with information an employee needs to do their job and make decisions.

Once employees have what they need, managers need to get out of the way and let their people make decisions. As stated by Steven Casemore in a recent article for Industry Week, it is critical to “let go in order to help employees grow.” This is performance empowerment. Managers have to stop being so insecure and concerned that they will not have a job if the staff are making all the decisions. I would argue a manager becomes more valuable when they empower their people and stop controlling so many aspects of the business. They shift from being managers to leaders. Empowerment is a critical part to achieving an engaged workforce. You cannot have engaged employees without first empowering them. Considering that only 51% of US employees are engaged at work, there is a dire need to empower your people.

To empower your people, remember:

  • Instead of giving answers, ask employees what they would do. Simply asking questions can get your staff thinking like owners and leaders themselves. And, by asking them for their thoughts, you are telling your employees that you trust their judgment. Empowerment is all about giving staff confidence in their own abilities.
  • Continually remind staff that they can make decisions.
  • Provide scenario-based training to collectively think what the best solutions or decisions might be. Ideally, this training should take place in an informal environment, such as a daily team meeting. Providing staff a scenario on a daily or weekly basis can get their creative juices flowing and turn them into expert problem-solvers.
  • Think about what best solutions or decisions might be.
  • Teach your people about financial responsibility and the impact of different decisions on the company’s bottom line. Encourage them to solve problems in a way that benefits both the organization and the customer.
  • Provide guidelines as new staff come on board. During their onboarding time – that first 30-60 days on the job – there should be plenty of opportunities to teach new hires the guidelines for decision-making while they are in a safe learning environment, where the customer, product, or service is not inconvenienced.
  • Be prepared to respond positively when someone gives too much away. In most cases, it’s not the end of the world – make it a teaching moment, not a punishment. Staff have to make mistakes to learn what not to do. Think back to your early days as a leader – I can guarantee you made your fair share of mistakes as well, and it only helped you grow in your role and in the organization.

Remember ­– the only way a manager becomes truly indispensable is to be dispensable to their teams by enabling and empowering them. Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my new book, Culture Hacker, available now.