How to Empower a Team Without Losing Control

Boss giving speech to employees

Unfortunately for all the logical, left-brained thinkers out there, there’s no secret code behind employee empowerment — to get the most out of your team, you’ll need a delicate balance of hard and soft skills.

While this expert blend of skills might seem daunting, it’s made easier by: 

  • Fostering a growth mindset within your team.
  • Creating a culture that rewards making mistakes.
  • Thinking of yourself as a coach.
  • Utilising learning content designed to support modern workplaces.

Now, we’re going to preempt things: when we say ‘losing control’ in this article, we mean in terms of struggling with your authority as a leader, not causing total mayhem in the office. Think more ‘strong leadership’ and less ‘Dave from Accounting sneaking in his hamster and letting it run loose around the third floor’.

That being said, your journey up the mountain of L&D mastery starts when you tactically surrender a bit of control.

Hold on to your hats (or leave them behind if you don’t want to lose them to the ocean), and let’s dive in. 

Surrender that control

Tip-top leaders retain the most control over their workplace by letting go of the NEED to control their employees.

What we mean by this is actually quite simple: when you give your team the freedom to try stuff out, they’ll be more willing to report back to you with updates and questions. The more you micromanage a team, the less they’ll want to tell you. 

That means putting on your Santa hat and giving your team the gift of initiative. If they feel empowered to come up with their own solutions: 

  • Less time gets wasted in managerial bottlenecks.
  • The team can accomplish more.

Just ensure that your team still knows that you’re there for them by remaining empathetic and open to their needs. The key is to still be seen as a leader without stepping on anyone’s toes.

Suggested reading: You can learn all about the vital leadership and management skills you need to successfully run a team with our handy blog.

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Encourage your employees to have a growth mindset

Now that you’ve improved your own thinking from the limitations of a fixed mindset to a progressive growth mindset, it’s time to encourage that same shift amongst your team. 

Encouraging your employees to take on more difficult challenges is a great first step to this. According to the Harvard Business Review, a self-determination theory by two American psychologists found “that intrinsic human motivation — that is, one’s autonomous motivation for personal, psychological growth — is the foundational catalyst of human success and fulfilment.”¹

Now let’s translate that into English: the most effective way of encouraging an employee to succeed and solve challenges is to have them motivate themselves.

This doesn’t mean you should expect your employees to decide to learn how to juggle knives on a whim. Rather, you explain how you want to see them personally benefit from stepping further outside of their comfort zone and using their initiative to solve bigger, newer problems.

It’s not easy to maintain this growth mindset, but as long as you continually reward your employees for overcoming challenges, instead of shying away from them, everyone becomes stronger as a result.

Pushing your team outside their comfort zones could be daunting for you as well. You might find yourself wanting to step in when an employee seems to be struggling, or taking on excess workloads so that your team can stick to what they know. To empower your team to be innovative, make sure you have the right support in place so that you can feel empowered to try new things as well. 

Improve your learning culture AND strategy

Short-term tactics like a snazzy-looking strategy that doesn’t actually mean much might seem like the kind of quick fix you need. However, they won’t ever beat the long-term, more intangible gains enjoyed by leaders who continuously look to improve their workplace culture.

This starts by teaching your employees to identify their own fixed mindset triggers so that they can overcome them and grow in the face of challenge. Are they even aware of their own limiting self-beliefs and barriers to growth? And how are you helping them acknowledge them, whilst offering support to help overcome them?

Pro tip: Your learning culture is only truly improved when your team is working towards collective goals and objectives, and feel empowered to do so. Don’t know where to start? Check out our eBook, where we prove that managers are the connectors of people.

When a workplace has a growth mindset culture, everyone enjoys trying, failing, learning from one another, and ultimately improving. 

This doesn’t mean taking senseless risks at the expense of common sense. Rather it means ensuring no one ever feels guilty for failing when they take the right kind of risks (which are your responsibility to illustrate) so they don’t get discouraged.

A good learning strategy needs a healthy mix of online and in–person content to support your team as they try new things, branch out and overcome the barriers that had previously held them back. That being said, in 2022 online content has taken precedence, and is key to a positive learning culture.

Foster a positive learning environment

Not to get too philosophical, but your students should become their own teachers. And you should be teaching them to become their own teachers. And your teachers should be teaching you to teach your own students to become their own teachers. And their teac….

But seriously, the sign of a great coach is someone who empowers their team members to eventually surpass them. That means you’ve done an incredible job helping them fulfil their potential. 

Of course there’s always that one employee who will always need hand-written instructions (and permission) to put the kettle on, but for the most part, it’s time to start handing back the responsibility of problem-solving to your employees. 

This means:

  • Proactively finding out what areas your employees would like to improve on so they feel like they are growing within their role.
  • Listening attentively when they make suggestions. As an authority figure, your attention to their opinions and ideas is valuable and empowering.
  • Making their status and position visible within your organisation so they feel relevant when presenting themselves. 
  • Setting realistic goals with the freedom to hit targets however necessary (and without you breathing down their neck every step of the way).
  • Leading by example – the last thing you want is for employees to feel unable to share their honest feedback with you — about your performance as much as theirs. If you can encourage open conversation as to how you can improve (whilst maintaining authority), you win every time.

All of the above are best achieved through engaging, funny and informative learning material. After all, as you encourage your team to become their own teachers, you need to provide adequate support so they are motivated to try again when they fail. Digital learning content offers your team the flexibility to learn and develop at their own pace.

Empower your team with high-quality learning materials

Even if you love learning and development as much as we do, you inevitably will be met with unavoidable barriers. After all, it’s not always easy encouraging people with their own problems, personalities, and ambitions to engage in additional learning material, especially in a hybrid setting.

We’ve found that humour and flexibility are key to overcoming these barriers… and it’s not like we’re speaking from 50 years’ experience or anything!

Want to empower your team and reap the benefits of flexible, humorous learning content? Book a trial with Video Arts today.

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¹ Forget Flexibility. Your Employees Want Autonomy. | HBR

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