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Business Times Column

by Marcus

Empower Team Members To Strengthen Your Business

Your business is only as strong as the individuals within it. Operational success is greatly enhanced when team members are taught and continually encouraged to utilize the power of their own minds, rather than becoming dependent upon you – or others – for answers.

There is a tendency among business owners and managers to simply give their team members answers, rather than helping them find the solutions they are seeking. Often, this is due to a false belief that they are saving time. While perhaps true in the short-term, this approach actually costs more time (and money) in the long-run as team members increasingly rely upon supervisors for answers and solutions.

It is also important to understand that team members who do not feel safe asking questions will often guess at best solutions and actions. Frequently, this leads to errors which have a ripple effect throughout the business operations: mishandled accounts, disgruntled vendors, and unsatisfied customers. Business operations are negatively impacted and precious resources are spent repairing both the error and, client relationships.

So, how do we encourage people to develop and use their own intelligence? This is a powerful question, and the answer can lead to a marked improvement in performance and results: By learning to use effective communication to encourage people to think their way through the situations they face.

▪Step #1: Create a safe environment for your team members to ask questions. This is accomplished through a commitment to never becoming disappointed, frustrated, angry, judgmental or condescending with anyone as you work together toward a solution. Build a positive environment where your team members feel safe exposing what they don’t know and learning new things.

▪Step #2: Encourage team members to ask questions and not guess about the correct course of action to take. Help them to see the strength in using available resources to create successful solutions. When you respond in constructive ways (versus reacting in negative ways) to a team member’s lack of understanding, they are encouraged to seek knowledge and become a great asset.

▪Step #3: Take time to explore the situation at hand. This is a critical component to your success: Rather than simply telling your team members the correct answers, ask them questions about the situation they are dealing with. This will also allow you to discover their level of understanding about the situation.

▪Step #4: Have them describe all the solutions they see, and continue asking open-ended questions to fully draw out their perspective. If their perception of the solution is not accurate, further questions will help them deduce the best possible solution.

▪Step #5: Give them the opportunity to teach back to you what you just taught them. This will demonstrate whether more work is needed, will further ingrain the lessons they have learned, and will build their personal confidence.

Over time, as you actively pursue this new mentoring approach, you will learn how to maximize your work with each individual member of your team. And, you will earn greater levels of trust as they learn that they can work with you to develop their ability to make sound decisions. This creates a very strong bond between you and your team. Your team will grow stronger, fewer errors will be made and the company will deliver a far greater experience to clients.

There is a choice to be made regarding the development of people: you can either make them dependent upon you for solutions, or you can empower them to look for answers on their own. In every instance where I have coached company leadership in the proper methods of using effective communication to develop independent, motivated and thoughtful team members, the organization – and everyone within it – has experienced greater levels of happiness and success.

Remember, through a lifetime of experiences, people have been told who to be, what to do and how to think. Thus, many have been conditioned to rely on others for answers instead of learning to think and act on their own. When this previous conditioning is understood and overcome, individuals are able to access more of their potential and perform at higher levels. The results are astounding!

When you take the necessary time to help your team members explore situations and think their way through them to a successful solution, you are fundamentally guiding them toward personal empowerment. This lessens their dependence on you, grows their abilities, strengthens your business and improves your company’s overall performance.

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This article was written for and published in collaboration with The Business Times newspaper.

Access the article here.