Empowerment may not be a new concept to you, but many organizations experience problems because they don’t know how to ‘live it’. Empowerment is often described as “having the power to make decisions”. However, this empowerment/decision making power is something that must be earned, not given, through a set of fundamental principles cultivated as follows:
Think of empowerment as the process of an individual enabling himself to take action and control work and decision making in autonomous ways. Empowerment comes from the individual. An empowered employee exhibits the following:
- Taking responsibility for our job
- Flawless execution, doing the right things right, timely follow-up’s, etc.
- Taking ownership of problems
- Tending to problems; not ignoring them, do the necessary follow-up’s
- Holding oneself and others accountable
- Making and meeting commitments
- Being adequately informed and trained
Implementing principles of empowerment can be challenging because it involves a radical shift from our traditional way of operating. The following principles include the most important elements for creating an empowered organization:
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.
Empowerment is the practice of cultivating the core principles of trust, accountability, responsibility, ownership and information with employees so that they can take the initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance to customers.