How To Empower People

The best leaders give away their power. The insecure leaders keep their power to themselves.

What does empower mean? It’s quite simple, it means giving another person your power. A highly effective leader empowers their team by asking them questions. They do this so that they think deeper, and come to a solution to a problem on their own. Questions are the beginning of empowerment.

With an insecure leader, they will only ask their team questions to gain just the right amount of information. They do this, so that they can solely make a decision and tell the team what to do. They will not go beyond that and ask questions of their team to empower them to think deeper, and help the insecure leader come to a decision.

The reason insecure leaders want to make the decisions on their own, and don’t empower their team by asking questions, is so that they can be seen to have all the answers. They are so insecure, that they think if their boss finds out that they don’t have all the answers, then they are going to be in trouble or get fired.

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They don’t ask their team lots of questions because they can’t lead a team discussion or debate. They don’t ask their team lots of questions because they don’t want a team member taking any credit for an idea, or solution. They don’t ask their team lots of questions, because they don’t want the team having any kind of influence.

A highly effective leader does not want to make all the decisions, they want the decision making to be a collective team effort. By doing this they are growing and developing themselves, and each team member at the same time.

They understand that asking their team questions is a very effective and skilled way of growing the team. Especially thought provoking and open ended questions.

1. Why Do Highly Effective Leaders Ask Their Teams Questions?

To develop the best solution possible. When the leader asks questions it creates an environment of openness, and allows the team to share what’s on their mind. When working in this type of environment, people think and work at their best.

This is when they develop their best solutions to problems. It is a mastermind group of many, rather than just one insecure leader doing minimal thinking.

To let them know that they matter. It lets the team know that their leader values what they say, and that they appreciate their opinion. It demonstrates respect to each team member, and helps to build trust with them. As a role model, the leader is modelling that teamwork is better than one individual.

To allow the team to take ownership. When the leader asks the team questions, they are allowing the team to be involved in finding solutions. It gives them a voice to share their thoughts, and then take ownership for the ideas, and solutions. It helps the leader and the team to make decisions together.

 To share the responsibility with the team. When the leader asks questions they are sharing the responsibility with the team, and they are engaging them in the process. It breaks down the barriers with the team, and gets them involved by sharing their opinions.

It breaks the barrier for the team members who previously would have kept their ideas, and opinions to themselves. It allows the team to take the action instead of being told what to do.

So the leader can learn how the team thinks. When the leader asks questions of each team member individually, they are learning how each person thinks.

By having this knowledge, they leader will know which team members are ready right now to be a leader. He/she will also know which team members need more development.

To empower the team with influence. It shows the team that the leader understands them, and this will create more buy-in from the team.

With more buy-in and understanding of the team, they are more likely to support the leader on the direction he/she sets for the future. By asking the team questions, the leader is allowing the team to influence him/her.

To raise any concerns the team have. When the leader asks questions it allows the team members to raise any concerns they may have.

This is another barrier breakdown for the team members who previously wouldn’t have the courage to raise their concerns. This will then allow the leader to work on those concerns for the good of the team.

2. A Collective Team Effort

When you are in the team or group environment, and the team develop solutions to problems then always give credit to the whole team. Don’t do as an insecure leader would and praise just one person (usually their favourite or friend).

A “mastermind group” is a group of many minds coming into one mind, so the whole group deserve equal praise. By asking many questions of the team, you can set direction to the team as you help them to grow and develop.

The direction should always start with teamwork. When you have teamwork, it is a lot easier to navigate the direction you are setting.

When you ask your team questions, you are growing and developing with them. The more questions you ask, the better you become at it. You will start to feel that the thought provoking and open questions you ask will improve.

The more questions you ask, the deeper the team will think. With deeper thinking, the team’s answers, ideas and solutions will improve too. A good answer shows that a person is clever. A great question shows that a person is wise.

To get a great answer, you must first ask a great question.

3. Listening To Your Team

Now that you have asked the great question, what must you do next? Listen. When you listen to your team member’s answer, you must dig deeper. The only way for you to do that is to actively listen, and then ask a follow up question.

The more you do this, you will continue this deep thinking with your team. This allows the team to come to either a better or totally different answer, or better solution. The follow up questions are the ones where you will get the best answers and solutions.

As we have discussed before, to get great answers, you must first ask a great question. If you are not getting good or great answers, it is because you are not asking your team great questions.

Try to avoid asking your team closed questions, where they can just give you an answer of yes or no. Instead ask open questions that encourage them to think. An open question starts with How? What? Why? Where? When? Etc.

4. Making Your Team Think

When you are a highly effective leader, you will develop a technique to answer your team’s questions with a question. This will encourage the team to come to an answer themselves. An insecure leader would just give them a straight answer, and tell them what to do next.

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A highly effective leader is developing their team by answering questions with questions. It is a leader’s responsibility to grow their team. When the team are just given an answer, they are not growing, and they are still exactly where they are.

If you answer questions with questions, you are making them think. So be deliberate with it, and try your best not to give the team the answers. Make them think!

If you want to know who you really are and where you are going, ask great questions.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

28 thoughts on “How To Empower People

  1. I really like number one. Asking your team questions instead of only talking to them is a much better and more effective approach. By asking someone something you get him to actually think and he/she feels like they are in charge.

    Overall really great tips. They remind me of the book how to win friends and influence people. Is there another book about leadership that you recommend?

    1. Hi Ladia,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article helpful.

      You are right, asking questions of the team rather than telling them what to do is how to get the team thinking deeper. It is also how we gain trust and influence with our team.

      A book that I think you will like is “Permission To Screw Up” by Kristen Hadeed. It is a great leadership book that I have read a few times. Let me know what you think about it.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I found it really interesting. When I look back at some of my former bosses as well as leaders I have followed I can definitely relate back to the article you have written.
    Leadership is yet another ever evolving skill that you learn as you go through life and interact with people. This got me thinking about leadership in a slightly different way so thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Emma,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      It’s great that you want to refer back to this article too with your former bosses. If you have any future bosses and need to refer back then please do.

      If you need any further help with your leadership or personal growth then please don’t hesitate to ask.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi, great article! I’m especially interested in sharing this with one of my managers. She is new to management and very insecure. I need to share these tips with her since they are explained in such a way that I can make it make sense. It’s also a good reminder for me. Even with my 30 years of management I may be on autopilot and I may not even realize that in some situations I may be insecure. A good manager will shine even brighter if they share their knowledge and empower their team.

    Keep up the great advice!

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that the article has helped you.

      Please let me know how you get on with sharing this article with your manager. Most people who start new manager roles are insecure (I was very insecure in the beginning). It would be great to know how she progresses.

      If you need any further help or advice with your leadership or personal growth then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Thanks for another great article. To be frank, I remember all these techniques (very easy) and I already apply to my teams. As a result, they trust me and respect me as a big brother. It looks like getting old. Even though I assign so many projects to let them handle by themselves that I’ve thought all basic and advanced knowledge to them, I believe in them that they can do it. Until now, they can handle to their own without asking me like before. In case of facing some problems, I always ask them for the main cause to find the best solution (probably) and protect them as a leader and a big brother. This is my leadership I am right now,

    All the best.

    1. Hi Kumponchai,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you liked the article.

      It sounds like you are already an accomplished leader in your field and that you are practicing these leadership principles well. Good for you and your team my friend. Keep up the great work.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Great lessons, Tom. Not only applicable for someone in business, but this same attitude can easily be transferred to personal situations. Thanks!

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you are learning the lessons from my articles.

      You are right, these principles are not just for work or business situations, they can also be applied to our personal lives too. Especially if you are a parent.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. I really thought of my boss when reading this article. I would say if you are a boss who possesses these qualities or if you are an employee who has a boss, having these qualities, in both cases, you are lucky because leaders like this make everyone’s life easier around them. Great article, liked every word of it, thanks for the share!

    1. Hi Abhay,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      You are right, if you have a boss who practices these leadership principles then they will be doing their best to create an environment where you and your teammates can thrive. That is the role of the leader.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Thank you Tom, I find your articles every time even more interesting. In my short life I had both of the described leaders.
    I always felt left out when I had an insecure leader, he would always have a favrot and never let anyone really point their ideas out.
    While when I worked with a high effective leader I always felt as I am part of the group.
    I believe more leaders should ask question to make the whole team think, and than listen to every answer.
    I also like how you talked about it being the whole team’s effort and not just the leaders. A lot of leaders forget about that and take all the credit of hard working people.

    1. Hi Nataliya,

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. I’m really pleased that the article resonated with you and that you found it interesting.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with working with an insecure leader and also a highly effective leader. I too have had similar experiences so I know where you are coming from with feeling left out, and being part of the team. I would much rather work with a highly effective leader.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom,

    I think another great point (which you have alluded to in this article) is that as a highly effective leader you realise that you don’t have all the answers.

    Asking questions of your team is not only a great way to empower them, but it also presents potential solutions that you, as a leader, may not even have considered before.

    This is the problem, as I see it, with insecure leaders – they often fail to realise that a highly empowered and motivated team is typically what produces the best results.

    As the old saying goes, “There’s no I in team.”

    A thoroughly enjoyable read as always Tom.

    Many thanks
    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. It’s great that you agree with the main points and even pointed them out.

      You are absolutely right that highly effective leaders don’t have, or even need to have all of the answers. If they needed to have all of the answers, then what would be the point of having a team.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Excellent article
    I can personally say the best teams I’ve been on whether as the manager or lower role functioned the smoothest when the teams were empowered.

    If the team is trained well, communication is clear, and everybody is aligned it can operate like a “well oiled machine”
    The leader should function more like a beacon in the distance, to keep the team going in the correct direction.

    1. Hi Lee,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that the article resonated with you.

      Thank you for sharing your experience as a manager and also as a team player. You are right, the leader’s role is to keep the team on the right path and in the right direction. However, not to go too far in the distance so the team can’t see them anymore.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Hi Tom,

    Another great article, I hope if I follow everything you advise, that I’ll one of the best leaders going yet!

    Empowering employees is not only valuable to get information, it also motivates your team to work and it makes them feel trusted too. Sometimes leaders don’t realise that they’re under-utilising their staff and it can have negative ramifications in the long run.

    Roll on your next article!

    1. Hi Sharon,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found it helpful.

      If you want to become one of the best leaders around, then reading through my articles will definitely help you. If you need further help or advice then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. Great post. I wouldn’t say that I am the BOSS in everything situation or project, but learning leadership qualities is truly beneficial! Like u said, leaders need to pay attention to what their team is saying or everything else will fail! Thank you for the post.

    1. Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article valuable.

      Learning leadership qualities is so important if you want to improve your life, build on your career and also help others.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. What you have mentioned here are all true.
    A great team leader should know how to listen to its team members and ask questions to be able to build a strong leader – member relationship. that would be beneficial to all.

    I wish Koreans could learn this way. The aspect of “rank” is very strong in Korean culture, if the person in the higher position said something, then, it should be done. Many of employees, specially those in low position, walk in egg shells most of the time.

    Gladly, it seems to change as time and generation evolves.

    Anyway, these are all important key points that everyone should remember leader or not.

    1. Hi Mina,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and what life is like in Korea when it comes to leadership. Hopefully things are changing as you have said, but if I can help them in the future it would e great if they came across this website.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. Your article made me think about being a great leader.
    I have seen and read a lot of books about being an effective leader in the publishing industry. In a sense, it did not make sense to me, considering that not all of us may become a leader.
    Then, I realized that a great leader’s mindset and skillset could be applied to our daily lives.

    What you are advising in this article will be helpful to your audience, including me.
    As you indicated, great leaders should make a team environment where all the team members exploit their utmost potentials.

    My favorite point in this article is “freely asking questions to other team members and the team leader”. In this environment, the outcome will be a lot more productive. I can even apply this principle to my family.

    Thank you for your advice, and have a great day.

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that the article made you think about leadership, that is exactly my purpose.

      You are right, a leader’s mindset can be applied and in a lot of cases should be applied in our daily lives. We are surrounded by people, whether that be friends, family, colleagues, leaders, or the general public. There is no situation where we cannot apply leadership.

      Asking questions is so important in building relationships and building trust with our people. You most certainly can apply this to your family.

      If you need any further advice or help with this then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  14. Asking your team questions is similar to being in therapy. Where you go
    and tell the therapist your problem and they ask you questions so you
    come up with your own answers. It is empowering for sure.
    I’m in healthcare and there are few questions asked of the team. We are
    pretty much just told what we’ll be doing. So it would be nice to experience
    what it would be like to have an effective leader.

    1. Hi Teresa,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article valuable.

      I’m glad that you find that asking questions is empowering, that is exactly what I’m trying to do. Hopefully others will try to do the same and we can create more leaders.

      It’s a shame to hear that in healthcare you are told what to do, and that you don’t have a lot of leadership. You should share this article with your boss to see what he/she thinks.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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