Fostering Excellence
Bringing out the best in each of us

Five Fundamentals of Empowerment

Empowerment is a word so often used in organizational settings that it has become vague in meaning and unuseful in application. Empowerment goes far beyond being given the positional authority to accomplish a task. That is merely a start. Empowering leaders go beyond this by providing clear objectives, training, resources and their own personal involvement, setting their teams up for success. Without the proper support, teams flounder, not having been truly empowered.
Clear Objectives – Teams want to contribute and meet organizational goals. Teams that are not given a clear path between their efforts and the overall strategy of the organization are unempowered from making those significant contributions. Giving teams clear objectives and expectations, and showing them how meeting those goals matter to the vision of the organization empowers them to make meaningful accomplishments. Show them what they need to do and why it matters!

The Right Training – Teams who lack the skills to meet their objectives are not empowered to succeed. Empowering leaders will ensure their team members have the opportunity to obtain the requisite training to be successful in meeting the team’s goals. Before assigning tasks, make sure your team has the appropriate skills for the task. If they don’t, get them the training they need!

The Resources to Succeed – Whether they are tools, software, the right skilled team members, real estate or travel funds, teams need to be properly resourced. Your teams want to make you proud, but they just need the resources to do the job right. Under-resourced teams are simply not empowered to be successful. Providing the right resources to teams empower them to accomplish the end states leaders have given them.
Scope for Independent Action – If you want your teams to be full of initiative, excitement and motivation, then you need to give them some scope for independent action. They should not need to come to you for approval for every decision. The scope of authority should be large enough that there is some room for acceptable levels of failure and risk. If there is no risk of failure, then there can be no true empowerment. If they fall, pick them back up, and when they succeed, it will because of their initiative, innovation and efforts. When that happens, praise them. Don’t constrain them, empower them!
Leadership Involvement – Leaders need to remain involved in the progress of the team as they work on their goals. It is not uncommon for teams to encounter obstacles along the way such as the need for additional resources, additional guidance or administrative support. A leader may need to engage a stakeholder to clear a path for the team’s success, or he may need to make adjustments to the team’s composition so that it is comprised with the right talent and members who are all pulling their weight.

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Empower your teams! In addition to providing tasks and the requisite positional authority, set that team up for success! Ensure they have the appropriate training, resources, guidance and your consistent involvement and support to complete the goals you have set for them and make that significant contribution to your organization’s strategy.

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.