How to Empower Employees to Make Their Own Decisions


Nobody likes a micromanager. In fact, studies confirm that just the opposite is true: Employees tend to be much happier and more engaged when they are afforded some autonomy to make their own decisions. And leaders benefit, too, when employees are given some leeway to act independently: It tends to result in a higher-quality of creative work, and a team that takes greater ownership of what they accomplish together.

Alas, even for leaders who are theoretically committed to the idea of an empowered employee base, it’s all too easy to slip into the mindset of, “Well, it’s easier if I just do things myself.” And to be sure, some leaders have been burned by bad experiences, entrusting employees to make wise decisions and then being dismayed by the outcome.

The good news is that there are some guardrails you can put into place. Here are a few tips for equipping your team members to make thoughtful, judicious decisions, exercising their independence in a way where everyone wins.

Tips for Empowering Your Team to Make Autonomous Decisions

1) Be thorough in evaluating your personnel.

You don’t want to impart important tasks to just anyone. Instead, you want to really know the people on your team, allowing you to ensure that you’re entrusting the right tasks to the right personnel. Make sure you evaluate your employees’ current skills and their natural abilities, but also their interests; whenever possible, you’ll want to give important jobs to employees who really want to do them. A harmonious alignment of interests is key. Finally, always be sure to evaluate employees’ time. Be respectful of those workers who already have too much on their plate, or who are at a higher risk of burnout.

2) Remember, delegation and empowerment are two different things.

Delegation means taking something off your plate and putting it on someone else’s. This usually benefits you, allowing you to free some time, but it doesn’t necessarily benefit the other party. Empowerment means more than just giving someone a task; it means providing them with the space and the freedom to make decisions on their own, not just following your instructions but setting the direction for a project or task. This is how your employees grow, develop, and become more engaged in their work.

3) Check-in frequently.

Once you’ve empowered an employee to do a specific task, make sure you check in with them regularly, simply assessing their progress and offering help as needed. This is not the same as micromanaging. It’s simply about showing that you haven’t forgotten them; that you care about the project they’re working on and want to support them however you can.

4) Avoid retracting power.

What if you empower someone, and they don’t handle the task quite the way you’d hoped? In this situation, your natural inclination may be to retract power, but this can be hugely deflating to the employee. Instead, create a safe space for mistakes and failure, and provide coaching opportunities before the next task. Show that you still believe in them, not that you’ve given up on them based on one goof-up.

Learn More About Empowering Your Team

An empowered team is an engaged team. To find out more, reach out to schedule a consultation with our team here at WhiteWater Consulting.

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

About the author
Chuck Cooper of WhiteWater Consulting LLC is a member of XPX Charlotte

The greatest asset a company has is its people. We stand ready to serve when you have questions or needs regarding a comprehensive HR strategy, employee engagement and company culture.