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Steve Vargo | 3/1/2019
7 WAYS TO EMPOWER EMPLOYEES (WITHOUT LOSING CONTROL)

Establish guardrails. Employees should be permitted to make some of their own decisions, but there needs to be clarity on the boundaries. Micromanagement restricts employees. Boundaries empower them. A good example would be allowing your employees to use up to $200 to resolve a patient complaint on the spot without consulting a manager.

Listen intently. Not listening to your employee’s ideas is a surefire way to get them to stop coming to you with ideas. One of the biggest drawbacks to an organization that doesn’t listen to its employees is that commitment and motivation wane, while you lose out on potentially valuable insight from the people you hire.

Lean into people’s strengths. One of the reasons some managers struggle to relinquish control is because they fear the employee will not do the job right. Another approach is to lean into people’s strengths and give them the freedom to do more of what they are good at. Maybe even better than you!

Forgive mistakes. Allowing your employees some autonomy to do their jobs without continuous oversight will not come without some bumps in the road. Punishing every mistake will lead to a staff that fears independence and struggles to make decisions on their own. If you were clear on the guardrails mentioned above, then most of these mistakes should be acceptable learning experiences vs. mission critical offenses.

Ask questions vs. dictate answers. Questions can be very powerful and also communicate to the recipient that you value their input. For example, “How can we increase our capture rate in the optical?” You may already have ideas on how to accomplish this, but you may also hear fresh ideas you had not considered. People like to see their own ideas succeed, so instead of dictating answers to people that reflect one person’s opinion (yours), invite your team to get involved as well and see if they bring a higher level of energy into making it a success.

Get a commitment. There is a psychological component to this one. Studies have found that once someone makes a public commitment to another person to do something, that person feels a larger sense of obligation to act in accordance with their commitment. For ex., “I need you to reduce our accounts receivable by 30% by the end of the month. Can you do that for me?” Once they answer yes, they have made a commitment to you. This may not always work, but it beats having to continuously badger someone to do their job.

Earn people’s trust. It’s not enough to just say you empower your employees, they have to believe you. If you can’t help yourself from constantly micromanaging your employees and reprimanding every decision that doesn’t align with your exact preference, then employees will not truly feel empowered.

Steve Vargo
Practice Management Consultant
Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is a 1998 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. After working in a clinical optometric practice for several years, Dr. Vargo pursued his passion for practice management by earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix in 2008. A published author and speaker with 15 years of clinical experience, he serves as IDOC’s Optometric Practice Management Consultant and advises members in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. Steve and his wife Melanie have two sons, Lucas and Ryan. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, sports and music. A native Chicagoan, he is an avid fan of the Cubs, live music and deep-dish pizza.
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