The Importance of Empowering People to Work Independently

By Tracy MacDonald
Aug 2016

Leaders are expected to accomplish a variety of success oriented objectives in a business environment. But if they are constantly bogged down in the minutia of day to day operational decisions, it not only takes away from the planning and building of future initiatives, but also stops productive workflow dead in its tracks. There are two reasons why this is bad for business: one is for the growth of the business and the other is directly related to a positive human resources experience for your employees. With leadership initiatives focused on helping employees to work independently, it becomes easier to be productive and have happy employees at the same time.

One of the things that makes people happy in the workplace is the ability to be productive and get things done. When leaders empower their employees to make their own decisions in order to move forward on a project or task, it gives value to the work accomplished. By empowering employees to make their own decisions, and by default experience successes and mistakes, they have an opportunity to learn and grow. That growth process leads to future successes and turns your employees into partners, colleagues, and future leaders.

people train empower reward

These little successes also encourage and support independent work. We’re not suggesting that a business structure consist of several independent people working in silos- that creates a different set of issues and potential problems. The suggestion is to give people an opportunity to think, strategize, build and implement all on their own; to understand the particular challenges they face and the goals they need to reach along with the best way to achieve those goals.

One area where we have seen the vast difference in results from working independently, or depending on others in order to move forward, is in the sales environment. Salespeople are tied directly to profits and revenue for companies, and just about every company needs to sell something in order to be profitable. As the leader of that company, it’s important to hire people who you can trust to get the job done, have the right approach and attitude, and are also independent workers. They are on the phones and in meetings representing your company. They are building relationships and also uncovering the needs of the client, or potential client. All things considered, they are the leaders of their own pipeline and should have the tools, training and support to work independently.  Two of the areas often overlooked for independent operation in a sales environment are structure and pricing.

By structure, we are referring to uncovering what the client needs and presenting the appropriate solution. This requires training for salespeople and communication early on with those who are experts in the operational backbone of the products being sold. If salespeople are trained at the beginning, they will at least have the foundation for being able to speak intelligently, and with conviction, about possible solutions for a client’s needs. In the situations where they are just gathering information and then have to go back to sales operations people or sales engineers, it disempowers them to have that leadership role with the client. They become “just the sales person” and are then looked upon as the person trying to reach a number, not necessarily provide a solution to a problem or challenge the customer is having.

By price, we are talking about the one thing that brings in profits and that leadership is constantly reporting back to shareholders and Boards. Depending on the industry, it may not be possible for all sales people to have every detail needed to quote an accurate price but there should at least be guidelines and ballpark numbers. In the most productive workplaces, sales people have access to pricing guidelines and are taught how to price what their clients need, as well as build in contingencies as necessary. Without this, they are dependent on others who are working on multiple projects and take longer to produce the desired result- a quote, and ultimately a sale. By having the salesperson in control of that process, it gives him/her a level of legitimacy in the process as well as control over the information because he/she  better understands all aspects of the process.

Emotionally, giving control, will build confidence among your employees and encourage future similar behaviors. It will also help to define and identify future leaders, which can be helpful when reorganizing or growing your business. That confidence and self-esteem takes us right back to the positive human resources experience mentioned earlier.

Unless you are self-employed, most of us work in environments where several people are working together in departments or groups. The healthiest of those departments, and ultimately companies, are those where people feel important, valued and part of the success of their department, and the company as a whole. Negative attitudes and feelings can spread like wildfire through a company and do immeasurable damage that affects the bottom line and can take years from which to recover. In the end, it’s important for all of us to let go of the “control freak” on the inside in order to empower all of those who can help us be successful on the outside.

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