Make Your Team Feel Powerful

Helping others feel more powerful can boost productivity, improve performance, and leave employees feeling more satisfied on the job.

Feelings of power also translated to more authenticity and feelings of well-being. Power made the subjects feel more “true to themselves,” enabling them to engage in actions that authentically reflected values they hold dear. This subjective sense of authenticity in turn created a higher sense of wellbeing and happiness.

While it would be great to think we could just repeat a mantra each morning to facilitate these wellbeing-enhancing feelings of power, leadership support, recognition, constant communication, and trust were essential to creating a thriving environment where front-line employees felt they had the autonomy to make a real difference in the organization. In other words, to instill a sense of power in people for sustained engagement you need the support of the entire system.

Even the least powerful employees will commit to finding ways to make their organization more efficient if given the autonomy to make decisions and execute the improvement measures they find most useful. Employees will be most committed to the organization when they feel their day-to-day work environment is autonomous and when they trust leaders to have their back.

It isn’t necessary, or indeed possible, to elevate every member of staff to a leadership position. But a good manager can offer choices that lead to empowerment, no title required.

People need to believe they have a sense of control over their situation, particularly in times of change and uncertainty, or they may adopt what psychologist Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania termed “learned helplessness,” where they basically stop trying. In a similar vein, Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer conducted research on mindfulness and ‘choice’ and found that giving people choices over their environment actually extended life by years, according to her studies conducted among the elderly in nursing homes.

Summing-up: Tom Peters once said, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.” Giving the employees real autonomy and helping them feel more powerful is not only our best chance to buck the trend of disengagement and apathy; it is at the heart of competitive strategy.

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