Create a Culture of Trust to Empower Your Employees

Employees are your greatest assets, particularly now as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s even more turmoil and turnover across industries.

Mike Clancy 

Employees are your greatest assets, particularly now as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s even more turmoil and turnover across industries. According to data from ADP, the national turnover rate was 6.8% in the third quarter of 2021 with construction coming in slightly lower at 4.4%.

Getting ahead of labor issues will be critical for companies to continue to deliver on projects. It’s important for leaders to stop trying to micromanage and instead empower their employees to create better engagement. Here at FMI, we talk about developing peak leaders; those who clearly articulate direction, leverage and align resources to maximize opportunity, and inspire and motivate greatness in others. 

It takes time and effort to empower your workers, improve team dynamics and then turn that into better business decisions. Yet, the rewards to your business are worth the investment.

The Perils of Micromanaging
Many managers or executives erroneously feel like they need to micromanage employees and their decisions, particularly when it comes to newer workers or when the company is trying to create a culture change. Trying to control or monitor every move, meeting or choice can quickly erode people’s sense of ownership and create dissatisfaction.

One of the more costly consequences of micromanaging is employee disengagement. U.S. companies lose as much as $550 billion each year due to disengaged employees, according to a study by The Conference Board. For every $10,000 in salary, an unmotivated person can cost a company about $3,400 in lost productivity.

With only about 36% of employees saying they feel engaged, it’s probably time to look at your leadership style and make adjustments. You’re likely to see more innovation, better work products, higher profit, and happier customers.

Empowering Employees
Understanding that micromanaging isn’t productive is one thing; doing something about it can be a challenge. That’s why FMI developed the peak leader model to help executives understand the behaviors required to perform at their highest, or peak, level. Some foundational behaviors of peak leaders include:

  • Setting clear direction, which focuses on helping employees understand the why and the purpose behind business decisions. Setting direction encourages employee autonomy to decide how best to respond to the big picture as opposed to giving direction, which outlines a set of tasks. An easy way to start practicing this is to tell employees why a project is important to the business when asking them to do something. 
  • Aligning resources, such as leveraging employee strengths to match their work or removing obstacles for your employees so they can operate more efficiently, is another characteristic of peak leaders. Creating an environment that aligns resources to help employees achieve their goals increases productivity, and often, motivation. Practice asking your employees: What can I do to support you? What resources can I provide to help accelerate your progress? 
  • Motivating and inspiring others to perform at their highest levels and rewarding desired outcomes and behaviors is another characteristic. Practice offering more frequent, specific positive feedback to reward your employees and encourage the desired behavior to continue. 

Peak leaders also work to identify and develop talent, taking an active role in making sure they have the knowledge and skills needed to continue to grow in their careers. Developing these future leaders will help ensure that your company continues to grow and creates clear career paths. Leaders who take a development approach, leveraging some of the skills mentioned above, will naturally need to step back from micromanaging so employees can learn and grow. 

Mike Clancy is a partner and strategy practice leader at FMI. Steena Chandler, a principal in leadership and organizational development at FMI, also contributed to this story.

Mike Clancy
Mike Clancy

Mike Clancy is a partner and leader of FMI’s Strategy Practice.