The business landscape is constantly changing, and while new initiatives can be refreshing, one constant for businesses is their workforce. Steve Hillis, CEO of Empower Partners, LLC, is a business consultant specializing in the building products sector, with a long history in the flooring industry. His advice? Eliminate unnecessary barriers, paperwork, and office politics and focus on empowering your team.

One of the most-cited reasons for turnover isn’t money, Hillis said during a recent keynote seminar for the World Floor Covering Association’s Empower 2018 educational conference. Employees leave because they felt that their employers didn’t care about them as people. Millennials despise office politics but love working in a team environment. And with 56 million millennials on the job, they represent the largest percentage of the workforce, and will only continue to grow as baby boomers and Generation Xers reach retirement age. But Hillis’ methods can be successful with any mix of employees. The key is an empowered team that is emotionally invested in the work they do. So, how do you empower and motivate your team?

Step One: Throw Away the Rule Book to Break Down Silos

The transition from bureaucracy first involves assessing your current quality, service, and mission. Employees prefer to work as a unified team toward an over-arching strategic goal and purpose, but first they need to know what that goal and purpose is. Review work flows and communication lines in order to ensure that your message is running smoothly from the top to the bottom. A review of workflow and communication can also help determine how to break the traditional department mold in order to create a team environment.

For example, a retailer may break its staff into teams of two sales associates, one designer, and one installer, with a team leader, instead of having the traditional sales department separated from the design team and the installation crew. Not only can this structure streamline the back end of a purchase—especially when cloud technology is effectively utilized—a team approach creates one unit that follows the customer through their entire purchase journey, streamlining the experience for them as well. The customer has a flesh-and-blood person to contact when questions or issues arise, instead of an amorphous set of departments to be transferred between. A team centers the experience on the most important facet, the customer.

Step Two: Set Goals

The next step in the process is goal setting, not only for the company as a whole, but for every individual within your company—from the C-suite executives all the way down to warehouse staff. Setting goals with your entire staff serves to unify the company and the individual with a clear and common purpose and to move employees from general activity to strategic and specific actions. It also helps goal setters to set the right priorities and avoid distractions and procrastination. Setting goals together with your team and supporting them in achieving said goals establishes the bonds of trust that are essential in creating an empowered team.

When setting goals through Hillis’ empower method, the first step is to visualize the future. Think concretely about where you want to be in five years. Then, make a list of five personal and professional goals that are specific. Doing personal and professional goals together creates balance, and helps to achieve the overall five-year goal you visualized. The next step is to bring detail and clarity to your goals. Think about the end result you want to achieve in order to discern the purpose—or the “why”—behind your goal. Doing so helps to develop actionable goals, taking common, vague goals such as “get healthy” or “make more money” to achievable goals like “lose 20 pounds” or “make $30k more per year.”

Step Three: Create a Vision Board

According to Hillis, this last step is the most important: find pictures that represent your goals and create a vision board. Put the vision board where you start your day, such as your home or office (or your phone), and review it twice a day at the beginning and end of your day. Our minds remember images much better than numbers or letters, and reviewing the vision board reminds you of the real purpose of the goal, the why. The repetition crystalizes the images and your goals in your mind, and the mental discipline of reviewing twice a day, every day, creates discipline within your body to take action toward your goals. As you achieve results, you will gain momentum, confidence, and self-motivation.

Once you’ve streamlined your business structure, eliminated waste and duplications in your workflow, and set your goals, as a business leader, it’s your job to lead your team, not just manage your business. Your empowered team will take charge of the day-to-day, leaving you to focus on income producing activities (IPAs). IPAs are the stepping stones of achieving your goals. They should constitute 70% of your time and be scheduled with first priority. IPAs include such tasks as recruiting, training, holding personal conferences, maintaining key customer relationships, and motivating your team. As opposed to passive business management tasks, IPAs are proactively create future business.

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