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Empowerment criteria

27 May

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Once again, we’ve been talking about empowering our employees. Last time, I mentioned that not every employee or team can be empowered where they are extended the trust and the necessary resources to execute on a particular task, project, or objective. How do managers assess the worthiness of an employee or team to extend that level of trust?

When conducting the National High Tech Management Study that led to my writing Gearing Up For the Fast Lane: New Tools for Management (Random House) in 1993, we uncovered specific characteristics by surveying over 1000 workers and interviewing 300 executives and HR professionals. These characteristics still endure and apply to all involved in the empowering organization:

  • An unrelenting willingness and ability for all to do what they say they will do
  • A commitment toward keeping higher-ups voluntarily informed
  • A welcoming and consistent atmosphere of availability both up and down the organization
  • A proactive attitude along with a willingness to admit errors and accept responsibility
  • A possession of good self-evaluation skills
  • An understanding to appropriately use money, time, space, personnel, and other resources
  • A potential or demonstrated expertise in the area of control that is under consideration

Managers need to be confident about their decisions and ready to tolerate mistakes by those they are empowering. Managers also need to be able to stay out of the way, especially when it comes to how the empowered employee or team goes about achieving the task or project. It’s also the manager who needs to be self-assured and confident enough to share the glory by giving due credit to those who did the work.

More than ever, activating empowerment in today’s times is an essential leadership skill – especially given those recognition- hungry Millennials who are in the workforce and who are desirous of being challenged and want to have opportunities where they have a part to play in the department’s and organization’s success.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Empowerment to the Workers!

26 May
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We’ve been talking about empowerment in a previous blog. Interestingly, empowerment as a management practice gained prominence in the early 80’s. It came about when organizations joined the trend toward flattening their departments’ top down structures of reporting. Empowerment differs from the process of simple delegation (which gives fairly specific task assignments), in that it allows more of a climate of passionate engagement and promotes decision-making among a wider span of control. It fosters an atmosphere where the lower level employee can bring their expertise, experience, and passion to a task or objective.

A good example to clarify where I am coming from with regard to the difference between delegation and empowerment is looking at a coach of a football team. The coach is delegating when he calls all the plays for the quarterback to execute. If the coach creates the climate in which the quarterback has the savvy and commitment to call as well as execute the plays, the coach has empowered the quarterback. A workplace example used in my last blog where the employee took the initiative to develop a software program to establish much needed metrics in a financial institution exemplifies empowerment that is well entrenched in an organization because the goals and activities originated with the employee. It allowed inventiveness and the origination of ideas and opportunities never considered by the boss.

When creating an environment of empowerment, the question often arises – who is the real star when it works well? Is it the employee, enabling boss, or organization? This is such a tough question to answer because empowerment requires relationships of mutual trust, respect, and good judgment.

If I had to make a choice as it regards today’s business environment, my choice would be the empowering manager. After all, the manager is still responsible for the outcome and pays the ultimate price of success or failure. The buck still stops with the boss. It’s the boss who creates the environment for employees to go beyond fulfilling their daily responsibilities and instead feel a part of the larger organization where they can think about ways to add greater value. Most importantly, it’s up to the boss to accurately assess the talent on his or her team. Not everyone can be empowered. The boss needs to accurately assess whether the employee or team demonstrates a worthiness of being empowered.

What do you think? How would you answer the question?

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Empowering your employees

22 May

thHow do you know if you’ve empowered someone on your staff? Interestingly, it sounds like a simple question but answering it is not that easy because it’s all relative.

Take for example, one manager that I’ve just started to coach. She is shifting from running a centralized office to one that’s more decentralized. Over the past three years, this leader has been making virtually all of the decisions for the department. Because the department has grown substantially, she and her boss decided that it’s time to let others on her team make more of the decisions in an effort to be more efficient, while at the same time help to develop the next level of managers. In this case, just encouraging managers to make some decisions where they haven’t done so previously is an example of empowerment.

Empowering also entails having, for example, your management team making decisions on their own without seeking their boss’s approval. In this scenario, the managers rely on their own devices and expertise to see something through to completion. If successful, they will be rewarded in some way – and if they aren’t successful, they’re going to pay a consequence.

That’s how many of us think about empowerment. However, there is another aspect of empowerment that oftentimes isn’t talked about. That’s when an employee or direct report comes up with an idea that no one has thought of and pursues it. A great example of this occurred recently in the financial industry when an employee came up with a wonderful idea of how to establish certain metrics for a particular product line. No one in the organization had thought of this idea. Not only did this employee come up with the idea, the employee developed a robust plan and, in her spare time, developed the software design to collect and analyze the data. When the program was demonstrated in front of her boss and the boss’ boss, everyone was truly amazed. Not only was the program successful, the idea truly added value for the organization. In the end, the entire organization adopted the program. Now that’s empowerment!

Our story isn’t over. In our quest for understanding empowerment, the real question is who are the real heroes? As in the last example, is the hero the employee who developed this new internal software program or is the hero the boss for encouraging their employees to be innovative and take certain risks? Likewise, how do you determine who to empower? Let’s look at these two questions in my next blogs.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).
 
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