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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Top 10 Principles of Employee Empowerment

Many use the term empowerment without understanding what it really means. A common understanding of empowerment is necessary, however, to allow us to know empowerment when we see it. Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.

So what does empowerment look like? A workplace where empowerment is common place could be defined by:

  • Employees make decisions that their bosses and bosses’ bosses used to make
  • Ultimately, highly skilled self-directed work teams take over most of the decisions, and there are almost no escalations
  • Manager’s role changes from directing and inspecting work to coaching, facilitating, resolving only the highest-level issues, and ensuring that people have the skills, information, judgment, and relationships that allow them to deliver vastly improved results
  • Employees have more autonomy because of boundaries which clarify the range within which they can take action, including making decisions
  • Learning instead of blaming becomes the focus of every mistake, missed opportunity/goal
  • Training and development are a constant high priority
An empowered workforce is something that is highly desirable in an improvement culture. Unfortunately, just because we want it, it doesn't make it so. Here are ten principles necessary for establishing employee empowerment:

1. Demonstrate That You Value People
Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person's unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on his or her current task, your value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.

2. Share Leadership Vision
Help people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their individual job. Do this by making sure they know and have access to the organization's overall mission, vision, and strategic plans.

3. Share Goals and Direction
Share the most important goals and direction for your group. Where possible, either make progress on goals measurable and observable, or ascertain that you have shared your picture of a positive outcome with the people responsible for accomplishing the results.

4. Trust People
Trust the intentions of people to do the right thing, make the right decision, and make choices that, while maybe not exactly what you would decide, still work.

5. Provide Information for Decision Making
Make certain that you have given people, or made sure that they have access to, all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions.

6. Delegate Authority and Impact Opportunities, not Just More Work
Don't just delegate the drudge work; delegate some of the fun stuff, too. You know, delegate the important meetings, the committee memberships that influence product development and decision making, and the projects that people and customers notice.

7. Provide Frequent Feedback
Provide frequent feedback so that people know how they are doing. Sometimes, the purpose of feedback is reward and recognition as well as improvement coaching.

8. Solve Problems: Don't Pinpoint Problem People
When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the people to fail, not what is wrong with the people.

9. Listen to Learn and Ask Questions to Provide Guidance
Provide a space in which people will communicate by listening to them and asking them questions. Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do.
When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "what do you think you should do to solve this problem?"

10. Help Employees Feel Rewarded and Recognized for Empowered Behavior
When employees feel under-compensated, under-titled for the responsibilities they take on, under-noticed, under-praised, and under-appreciated, don’t expect results from employee empowerment. The basic needs of employees must feel met for employees to give you their discretionary energy.

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