Ever since selling my first company, I’ve thought a lot about what I could have done to make it more successful. Some people might think that selling a company for a decent check was good, to which I would totally agree. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I could have done better and am always trying to achieve more.
I realized since founding my last successful company that it takes a different kind of a leader to build a billion dollar company: It takes a leader that is surrounded by empowered staff. I didn’t do this at my last company and I feel that because I didn’t grow other leaders, I didn’t get as much value. Since realizing this I have started to grow the type of company that I feel will get me to be much more successful in business and in life. Here are 10 empowerment tips I’ve learned.
- Demonstrate your trust. The best way to gain employee loyalty is by showing your staff that they have your trust. Clarify the ends instead of the means, and let your staff go about projects in their own way. They might not accomplish everything exactly as you would have, but they will get the job done with their own flair.
- Communicate a clear vision. As a boss and a leader, it’s your job to get everyone on the same page. People that do not know what they are supposed to be doing won’t be able to accomplish their jobs very well at all. Clearly define the roles of your staff so they know their duties, and don’t step on each other’s toes.
- Don’t avoid small talk. Make a habit of sitting down with your employees and engaging in one-on-one conversation. You can have these talks in your office, in the break room, or at a coffee shop down the street. Intentionally ask about their work progress, such as accomplishments or even complaints, but also make an effort to get to know your staff on a personal level. Ask about what’s going on with their families or lives in general to show that you care about them as human beings. When I do this it leads to a friendlier and more productive office environment. It also helps me grow as a leader by caring more. Two-thirds of people surveyed by Glassdoor agree that their boss had some kind of impact on their career — try to make sure it’s a positive one.
- Encourage self-improvement. When your employees learn new skills, it’s better for the company as a whole. Some companies will even support continued education or classes outside of the workplace that enhance personal growth. If you can’t support your employees through financial means, at least be flexible with their schedules to a certain degree. Allowing your salesperson or HR representative to leave half an hour early every Thursday for community orchestra practice can do wonders for their wellbeing and work ethic.
- Leave your office door open. You want your employees to know that their opinions are valued in order to truly empower them. A simple gesture such as leaving your office door open can do wonders to communicate this. Adopting an open door policy shows employees that you care about what they think, while enabling them to give their input and play an active role in your company.
- Support vacation time. This might seem counterintuitive, but you are going to get a lot more out of your employees if you work to keep them from burning out. Learn to spot the symptoms of burnout, and avoid getting anywhere close by actively supporting vacation time. Your employees will actually be more productive and better at their jobs if they are well-rested and rejuvenated. You don’t have to mandate full weeks off at a time, but you should foster an environment where a long weekend here and there is not only tolerated, but actively supported.
- Delegate more than just work. As a boss or manager, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to delegate work, but make sure that’s not the only thing you’re passing down. Ask a staff member to lead an important meeting, even if it’s just while you step out to take a phone call. Share the projects that people and customers notice. This will show employees that they have a real effect on the business.
- Learn flexibility. Life happens. Be flexible with your employees as things come up. Perhaps try a different schedule that allows a parent to drop their kids off at school in the morning. As an added bonus, they’ll be able to avoid rush hour traffic and put in even more work. Or allow an employee to work from home (WFH) in order to take care of a sick parent if the job allows. If long WFH periods don’t work for your company, experiment with one WFH a week or a couple each month. You might even find that your employees are more productive when working from an environment they choose.
- Inspire creative thinking. Just because you have been doing a task one way for your entire career does not mean that’s the best way to accomplish it. There are always problems to be solved and better ways to do things, so use the minds around you and encourage your employees to share creative business solutions. Putting the challenge in the hands of your employees will not only save you some headaches, but it’s also likely that you’ll come out with a better end result. They do say that two heads are better than one.
- Show you appreciate their efforts. Sure, your employees are paid to show up every day, but it’s always helpful to receive some encouragement. Whether it’s a sales call that was handled exceptionally well or a report that was put together flawlessly, let your employees know when they are doing a good job. This will ensure continued high-quality work in the future, and they will feel more job satisfaction.
Here’s to empowering new leaders.
A version of this article originally appeared here.