When we give people instructions it creates dependence. When people give intent it creates independence. The key to your team becoming more proactive rests in the language the subordinates and superiors use. Sometimes we call this empowerment, but I don’t believe we empower people. They are already empowered. What we do is give them the authority to exercise their natural empowerment. Whatever you decide to call it, the way you get there is not by giving people speeches but by giving people a tool they can use to make decisions at a higher level than they could before.
Instead of waiting for an order for the next steps to take, an empowered employee reports to his manager with sufficiently complete information and rationale for the action he intends to take. The employee uses empowered phrases such as “I intend to . . .” to communicate to his manager, who then only needs to give his or her approval allowing the employee to then act accordingly. This process of employees thinking out loud as to what they intend to do and why causes them to think at the next higher level, thereby turning the management structure upside down. The use of empowering language builds energetic, emotionally committed employees who think about what needs to be done and the right way to do it.
My leadership nudge to you this week is this:
Make room for your teams to level up. Giving them space to grow to Level 5, “I intend to” will result in rich communication and greatly empowered teams.