picture of a commercial business park

Coaches Empower Players to Win


To become a competitive and profitable construction company, your people must be allowed to do the best they can and be able to contribute to their fullest capabilities. They must not be held back by an owner or boss who controls every decision or move that the employees make. In order to win a professional basketball game, the coach designs the plays and trains the players, and then asks the players to execute those plays to the best of their abilities and skills, without the coach’s involvement or micromanagement. Coaches need skilled players who know how to implement the plays, plus make decisions on how to adjust and do what’s necessary to counteract their opponent’s moves. In business, when things don’t go as planned, employees must also be empowered to decide what adjustments they need to make to implement a successful outcome, installation, or completion. This type of working environment is called an empowered workplace.

Empower - To give power or authority, enable, authorize, or allow others to perform an act or task.

Many company owners grow their companies by controlling every move on every job or project with every employee. Then they get stuck at their level of control and stop growing. This causes them to stress out at their frustrated situation. The answer to their problem is to learn how to empower their team leaders and key employees so they can focus on more important priorities like growing the company.

When an owner makes all the decisions for employees, the employees become overly dependent on the owner. When this happens, employees stop improving, because their boss doesn’t allow them to learn from their own decisions and mistakes. When employees don’t have to make decisions, they also can’t become accountable or responsible. This, in turn, frustrates the boss who is struggling with all of the pressures of doing everything him or herself.

In order to start an empowerment attitude in your company, it takes more than wishful thinking or a few meetings. You will have to commit to letting go of major decisions, start a training program, and be willing to watch people make some mistakes. However, your people will learn what it takes to step up to leadership quickly if all of that is done in a systemized manner. Your employees and managers will learn to stop relying on you to make decisions for them, and they will also learn that it is better to be accountable than a robot or a puppet of their boss. This major shift starts at the top. Once you decide to empower your managers and players, you can’t revert back to making decisions for them. You will have to train and trust, just like a coach does. Eventually, your team will gel and become more competitive, faster, stronger, and better than when you were totally in control.

Are your employees empowered

In an un-empowered workplace, there are many common signs. Which of these symptoms exist in your company?

  1. There is a lot of negative energy.
  2. People don’t tell you the truth.
  3. People don’t volunteer for responsibility.
  4. People aren’t excited about their jobs.
  5. Nobody offers their comments in meetings.
  6. People don’t admit when they make mistakes.
  7. People don’t ask for help when they need it.
  8. People only do what they’re supposed to do.
  9. People wait for direction.
  10. People won’t make decisions without asking.

All of these situations indicate your company is managed by a controlling boss who doesn’t delegate or empower people. When people are controlled, they are kept down and don’t perform to their fullest capability. When people are empowered to make decisions and play the game, they feel they can make a difference, become responsible for results, get involved, become an integral part of the team, take initiative, and contribute their full talents and ideas.

Let go to grow

As a manager or boss, you’ve got to give up power and control to improve the performance, effectiveness, results, and productivity of your team. Don’t let the pressure to achieve more with less keep you stuck in your natural tendencies to be the boss and want to stay in control. When you give up power and control, you gain motivated, inspired, fulfilled, and excited employees, who want to meet or exceed goals, and achieve higher results by working together as an empowered team. When you control people, they feel restricted and stop trying to do their best. You can’t afford that in today’s competitive economy.

People want to be accountable, responsible, and make a difference. But, controlling bosses don’t let them and keep them feeling oppressed. When employees are told what to do, they do only what they’re told, and at a minimum acceptable pace.

Empowerment is about teammates working together without a dictator constantly telling them what to do. Team captains become problem solvers and responsible for results as they review the situation at hand, explore choices, and then decide action plans with input from their team. This allows team players to feel like they’re valuable. When employees are involved in making decisions, they feel ownership and want tasks to succeed. This increases performance and improves productivity.

In the old model of management, the boss’s job was to keep employees under his or her tight control. The best boss ran the tightest ship. Their job was judged by how closely they watched their employees. In an empowered team, players are expected to make their own decisions and decide what to do on most tasks. The coach watches from the sideline and motivates, encourages, and coaches his players. In this empowered environment, players are encouraged to do whatever it takes to win the game within the overall game plan, strategy, and rules.

Let go but keep some controls

Even the best coaches can’t delegate everything to their players, however. In your business, there are a few things that require tight or tighter controls. The key is to decide what to control and what to empower to the players. Company owners can’t delegate their overall vision, values, and integrity. But they can delegate almost everything else. For your company, what can be delegated, what must stay controlled, and what can be empowered to your managers and employees? You can’t build a company and be so controlling that you are even telling your office manager what type of coffee to buy. You cannot waste time trying to control details that made no difference in your bottom line. Make a list of what you can delegate versus what you must continue to control.

Remember, the more you control employees, the less they feel responsible. High control equals low performance and low control equals high performance. Your overall empowerment goal is to transfer tasks, accountability, and responsibility to your people. What do you have your hands in that you shouldn’t be doing? What areas of responsibility can you transfer to your key people? In order to make the shift, you will have to clearly define what you are transferring. For example, what responsibilities can you transfer to your Project Manager, Field Superintendent, or Foreman? Take a look at this list and decide who should be accountable and responsible for each work area or task.

Project Empowerment Task List

  1. Keeping all required safety materials on-site
  2. Knowledgeable on all safety procedures
  3. Ensuring that no extra work is performed without a change order
  4. Ensuring that no work is started without an executed subcontract and insurance
  5. Issuing all subcontracts within first 30 days of project
  6. Approving shop drawings within first 45 days of project
  7. Preparing and updating accurate schedules
  8. Knowledgeable on all subcontracts
  9. Full understanding and knowledge of general contracts
  10. Ensuring that construction meets plans and contract
  11. Meeting project goals and objectives
  12. Maintaining job profit
  13. Preparing accurate monthly job cost updates
  14. Preparing accurate monthly schedule updates
  15. Submitting monthly progress payment by month-end
  16. Keeping up-to-date field records and job paperwork
  17. Keeping project clean at all times
  18. Keeping job trailer clean and job sign posted at all times
  19. Hiring and firing field personnel per company policies
  20. Turning in accurate time cards every week
  21. Maintaining daily job logs
  22. Supervising and maintaining quality workmanship
  23. Administration of all contracts
  24. Doing all purchasing
  25. Management of all contracts

As you begin turning over areas of responsibility to others, the tendency is to still try and micromanage the process. Remember, the basic building block of an empowered company is your team. The players report to the coach and everyone works together to coordinate their team efforts. Your team works when everyone knows their position and area of total responsibility, and is free to achieve the expected results. The team’s coach is not the person who tells the players what to do. The coach is the person in charge of the player’s personal development and creates a playing field that encourages performance, learning, accountability, and growth. The winning coach is a player facilitator for accomplishment and achieving results.

Delegating decisions

As you begin to let go of decision making, panic might set in. So start slow and make it a joint effort between yourself and your employees. For example, let’s say you want to delegate a routine task like ordering and scheduling materials. What would be the best way to go about it?

Step 1: Tell them what you have decided to do

Explain to your employees you want them to take on more responsibility and become a more valuable part of the team by taking charge of material ordering. Ask them what they think about the change and added responsibilities. Then, ask if they are willing to try to make it happen. Lastly, get their buy-in on wanting to take on more responsibility.

Step 2: Coaching and training

Show them how to do the task. Then, let them try the task with your input, guidance, assistance, and close supervision. Repeat Step 2 at least three times until you are sure they fully understand how to accomplish the task without your input.

Step 3: Delegate the task

Now for your leap of faith: you must completely let go and let your employee do it. This is the hard part. Set up a step-by-step review process where you regularly check the progress of your empowered employees. Set appointments for review during scheduled milestones of the delegated task. For example, during the ordering material process, you could require a check-in meeting before the actual final ordering to review the quantities and pricing. Over time, you can reduce these milestone review meetings as you build trust and confidence with your empowered employee.

Step 4: Rewards

After you have successfully completed all four steps in the empowerment process, reward your empowered employee for accepting and successfully accomplishing important tasks without your constant input and direction. This will encourage them to want to accept more responsibilities in the future.

As you start to let go of important decisions, you’ll have to set boundaries and limits on some issues. For example, you can delegate to your Project Manager the awarding and writing of all subcontracts, but you should maintain a level of review before the subcontracts are issued. After the Project Manager sorts through all of the bids from subcontractors, and clearly determines the scope of work and who they want to award the contract to, have them review their decision with you for final approval. This process puts all of the responsibility on the Project Manager, but allows you to offer advice or input before it’s too late.

Another example of a reasonable limit is to delegate a maximum spending level of $1,000 or $5,000 to your field foreman before they must check with their boss for approval. This gives them the feeling of responsibility, because it shows you trust them to make good decisions.

Delegating and letting go of control changes your role from doer to coach and allows you to take your company to the next level. When you are doing minimum pay-per-hour work, you are wasting your time. What should you be spending your time on? You can make a lot more money seeking new business opportunities and finding new customers, than worrying about small things like ordering office supplies or lumber. The choice is yours: control others and stay stuck, or let go and grow.

Business - Commercial Real Estate Industry

Ready to explore how Sunflower Bank can assist you? Speak to a personal banker at a branch near you, contact a specialist on our Wealth Management team, or find the right financial partner on our Commercial Banking team for your business needs. 

Back to Resource Articles

This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.