How to Empower Junior-Level Staff to Work and Think Like the CEO

Leadership Development
Create empowered decision-makers
How to Empower Junior-Level Staff to Work and Think Like the CEO

Quiet Quitting is now a regular headline, but it is nothing new. When employees feel invisible, unrewarded and underutilized, they disengage. 

Several of my clients have come to me with similar challenges recently. They are in periods of rapid sprints while experiencing significant growth and they need additional engagement, grit and proactive energy from their employees. 

However, their employees are feeling burned out, disengaged and frustrated. What alarmed me most was to see in survey results that this was happening most in the junior-most members of their organization. The irony is that the answer to the frustrations felt on both ends, by leadership and junior employees, is the same: alignment and empowerment.

If you are the leader of a rapidly scaling organization, you need every employee, regardless of their seniority, to sprint in step with you. In order to do so, they need to know where they are going, how you want them to get there, and why it is important. Here are 5 keys to making this sprint period not only possible but powerfully motivating.

Have a clear mission

In order to run fast and far as an organization, you need a common driver. You might feel like your employees know what your goal is, but I have found that there are usually gaps that only widen as you grow without proactive intervention. 

As you scale, you have new people hiring new people who don’t have the opportunity to have a personal relationship with leadership. 

Several of my clients have had powerful results come from simply standing up and sharing their origin story. Remind everyone of what you’re united to accomplish, why the moment is now and why you are the team to do it. This unification of purpose is powerful.

Create empowered decision-makers

Do your employees understand how to make the decisions you yourself would make when you’re not in the room? 

Beyond mission and value statements, be sure to have clear leadership principles to guide not only what you do but how you do it. This creates a common language, culture and engagement across all layers of the organization. 

• Are you competitive or collaborative internally? 

• How are times of failure and frustration discussed and viewed? 

• What are the decision-making hierarchy templates? 

When I was at Amazon in the early 2000s, Jeff Bezos created the company’s original 10 leadership principles (of which there are now 16) to help employees replicate his decision-making process when he could no longer be in all the rooms where critical decisions were being made. I still have those principles memorized 19 years later because of the frequency with which they were quoted. They became our ruler and common language.

Provide clear paths to progression

While clear parameters and job descriptions are important, no one wants to perform in a box. Employees want to know how they will learn, grow and progress while performing their roles. 

Be explicit about what training you offer, how employees will be invested in, and what their path to progression is on each job ladder. Ambitious employees will rise to the challenge! It is much easier to channel energy rather than try and pull it out of them!

Reward hard work consistently

The fastest path to burnout is unrecognized, unappreciated hard work. 

Employees who feel seen, appreciated and valued will consistently exceed your expectations. 

Be explicit on what you will reward and how it will be measured and celebrated. As your teams grow, senior leaders won’t be able to personally see the many heroic efforts that happen every day, so it is wise to create multilayered reward systems.

A simple, non-monetary peer-to-peer kudos system that automatically sends a notification to their manager of a job well done can be a powerful tool for celebrating daily wins and spotlighting your otherwise unsung daily heroes. 

Additionally, allowing your mid-level managers to have a discretionary budget for spot bonuses for efforts above and beyond removes red tape and allows for swift praise and action on a job well done. Something as simple as a gift card for a dinner out with their family can make a huge difference when an employee has gone above and beyond to solve an urgent problem or offer an innovative solution that saves time, energy and resources. 

Be sure to reward not only individuals but team efforts as well to avoid internal competition from developing. Publicly celebrate group wins as an organization. Most importantly, reward according to your company values. What you measure and reward is what you will receive! 

Communicate on repeat

In a recent article, Why Repeating Yourself Is a Good Thing, Adam Grant points out that “[n]ew research reveals that leaders are 9x more likely to be criticized for under communicating than over communicating—those who say too little come across as unclear and uncaring. When you’re starting to get bored of your message, it’s probably just starting to land.” 

Make sure that your employees understand what you’re trying to accomplish, why it is important and urgent, when to move fast and when to ask for permission or clarity. 

This will unlock the next gear or engagement within every layer of your organization.

Whether you are a leader or a junior employee, I encourage you to use these 5 points as a script in your next team meeting and one-on-ones. Make sure that you are in alignment on each and watch engagement, satisfaction and results soar! I’d love to hear the results!