Apr 25, 2011

Empower Your Leadership - Empower People

When I first joined organization that was practicing Total Quality Management, it was the first time I had to understand the term People Empowerment (one of the pillars of TQM). I read about empowerment here and there, but did not exactly know how to explain it, or how/why to put it in practice. Also was not sure how it is supposed to help me, or the company.

Although management consultant for years now, I do not like too much corporate speak, at least not just for the sake of it. Sometimes we are lead to believe we will impress the boss or someone with such words and there are times when it is easier to use them, but when you have to explain something to your people make sure you are the one who understands it so well that you can apply it, or explain it in simple terms, or through an example.

What is People Empowerment?

Employee empowerment is a term used to express the ways in which non-managerial staff can make autonomous decisions without consulting a boss/manager.

Employee is allowed to make his own decisions in specific work-related situations.

Does it sound scary?

Sure it does, but only if employees are not properly trained, competent, informed, or clear on their authority.

How Can it Help You and Your Business?

Empowerment does not equal a loss of control for managers. In fact, it positively impacts how employee sees you as a leader.

The logic behind employee empowerment is to

· Increase the employee's responsibility

· Build employee morale, and

· Improve the quality of your employee's work life.

Ideally, when an employee feels vested in an organization, he will be more productive, loyal and more confident.

I'd really appreciate a leader who makes me more productive and confident, what about you?

You/your organization decide how big decision can be and what potential effects are, or what the control points would be, and you also try to create the environment where this will be possible.

How the Empowerment Will Help You?

I believe you already ask for your people’s opinion, or let them make a suggestion, or even come up with a solution.

That way you are:

· Empowering your people making them more productive, loyal, confident

· Don't let them manage you by always asking what you think they should do.

· You are guarding your own productivity and focus by not being interrupted even more at work, etc.

But First...

In order for employee empowerment to be successful, the employees have to be properly trained and they must also have access to any information pertaining to their additional responsibility.

Managers are accountable to make certain that happens.

Best Business Advice, ''Empower People''- Lloyd Blankfein Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs

Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs states this is one of the best advice in business. He tells a story about it in Fortune magazine:

''When I was put in charge of sales and trading at Goldman's commodities unit [in 1984], it was a big deal for me. My first month on the job, things started going badly in the P&L. When I went in to my boss for help, he asked, "What do you think we should do here?" I wanted to sound totally in control, so I went right into this Chuck Yeager voice -- you know, The Right Stuff. I used my most fake-confident voice, and I gave it my best shot. He said, "Okay, that's a good idea."

It was smart of him to ask my opinion instead of telling me what to do. He knew that if my plan worked, I'd feel more confident. If it didn't work, the pressure on me would ease because he had endorsed my idea.

Just as I was walking out of his office, he said, "Oh, just one more thing. Why don't you walk to the men's room and throw cold water on your face? You're looking green." So I learned two things: First, it's good to solicit your people's opinions before you give them yours. And second, your people will be very influenced by how you carry yourself under stress.’’

When You Don’t Want to Empower Anyone

There are times when you have to tell your people what to do. No questions asked. It is so even if you are the most democratic boss of all. And they better do it.

They might not have competence, fast action is needed, or it is simply necessary instruction that must be applied immediately. I don’t suppose you are brainstorming in case of emergency and big stakes. It is expected of you to lead that way. Just tell them what to do and where to go. You might explain why and what later.

If your people trust you they know doing as you say is best for the business, and therefore for your jobs (everyone would like to keep).

But there will be times where you can empower them and make all benefit. Just remember to do it, that’s all.

By thinking where you can let your people suggest, decide or contribute most, and letting them do so -- you should be able to motivate them more, improve their quality of work and achieve your leadership impact by achieving such effects. You might end up with a great business idea, too.

You don’t (always) have to be the boss from the comic (at the top of this page, taken from HBS Executive Education Facebook Page).

How much do you practice empowerment, or experienced benefit or even problems with it? Please share by posting a comment.

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  1. Dear Liliana, this is an excellent article. Thank you for posting:)

  2. Thanks for taking time to read it and letting me know what you think. Best, Ljiljana.


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