Empowering Others

6 Feb

As a leader, do you think your people would respond favorably to an opportunity to contribute more toward your organization’s overall success?

 Whenever I ask this question of business-oriented audiences when speaking across the country, a majority always raise their hands, and with good reason. What is being suggested here is the empowerment of others, a management tool that is often difficult to put into practice.

Empowerment is defined as the act of authorizing someone, other than the empowering manager, to handle a task to its completion. When a manager empowers others, he or she creates a climate where staff can become passionately engaged in their work. This occurs because people have a natural desire to feel that what they are doing makes a difference. They want to be valued by the organization.

 A good example of someone who benefited from empowerment is Dominick Jones. He now works as an owner/operator of his own taxi cab company to give him something to do now that he has been retired for 2 years. 

 Here’s the story he relayed to me while en route to my hotel after he picked me up at the airport.

 Dominick began working at a spa in Columbus, Ohio when it first opened on the promise that each day he could rent at least 70 towels at 50 cents each to patrons in the men’s locker room. Dominic would retain a percentage of the revenues. This arrangement was attractive to Dominic. Several days after he accepted the job, the reality of the situation became clear. Each day he was able to rent no more than seven or eight towels. 

 Instead of being discouraged, Dominick accepted the situation as a challenge. He recognized that opportunities existed to increase business because club members often asked if various supplies were available. His first requests were for things used in the showers. For example, the spa was presently purchasing expensive disposable shower shoes that none of the members liked. Dominick got permission from his boss to look for something better and, within a week, found a manufacturer who produced shoes that the club members liked, at half the price. It wasn’t long before Dominick had opened up a little concession stand in the locker room where he sold T-shirts, bathing suits, socks, combs, brushes, powders, and other similar items.

 To earn additional money, Dominick would shine shoes, as he had done in his previous work. Many of the members left their shoes to be shined while they were working out. Dominick concluded his story by saying that he had done very well for himself.

He was sharing his experiences with me with such enthusiasm; it caused me to think that the whole event happened recently!  Boy, was I surprised to learn that it occurred 21 years ago.

 At a quick glance, you may think that Dominick is the hero. Yet, the unsung hero in Dominick’s success story is his boss. Because the boss was willing to empower Dominick, and encourage him to take a risk- by providing a valuable service to members – a type of service that far exceeded the typical towel concession.

 To empower others is more than simple delegation. The difference is in the power that a superior relinquishes to his/her people. A great deal of trust and confidence is necessary on both sides. In addition to believing and trusting a person, you need to know their strengths and their weaknesses as well as their potential. Without having this foundation to build upon, in combination with mutually agreed upon expectations, you are only going through the motions of practicing the management tool of empowerment.




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