Empowerment releases power within people for amazing results

24 March 2014 05:43 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Do you work for a company that has a traditional bureaucratic management style? If so, chances are quite high that your workplace is probably not as effectively run as one whose philosophy is ‘empowerment’.

Empowerment in the workplace is an often-misunderstood concept. Employee empowerment is a term that many managers and organisations think they understand but only a few actually do and even fewer really put into practice.

Many managers feel that by empowering employees, they relinquish the responsibility to lead and control the organisation. This is not the case. Employee empowerment is the process of enabling employees to ‘think, behave, act, react and control’ their work in more autonomous ways. Effective employee empowerment not only has positive implications for employee satisfaction but also many other organisational facets, such as member service and member retention.
For an organisation to practice and foster employee empowerment, the management must trust and communicate with employees. The management must be willing to communicate every aspect of the business to its employees in an open and honest manner. This communication may include elements of the strategic plan, financial performance, key performance indicators and daily-decision-making.



Creating empowered environment
Alison and David Price in their book ‘Management: A Practical Guide’, offer some practical ways to create an empowered environment, summed up by using the ‘EMPOWER’ acronym.

Expectations: Set clear expectations, defining what is needed by when and outline any ‘must have’ criteria. Also agree on when you will meet to review progress.
My responsibility: Set clear boundaries, ensure that employees understand what falls within their boundary of responsibility to do and make decisions on.

Pareto principle: Also known as the 80:20 rule, i.e. you should look for the 20 percent of decisions that will make 80 percent of the difference and give people freedom with the other 80 percent.

Open and approachable: Make yourself accessible when people need support. If things go wrong, ensure that your team feels you are approachable and that you work together to resolve the issue. Create a no-blame culture and help people to learn from their mistakes.

What (not how): Understand that people will perform best if they are given the freedom to work the way they want to work and remember it’s the output that matters. For example, if someone does his/her best work while listening to music through headphones, let them do it unless there’s a valid reason not to.

Encourage knowledge sharing: The more informed people are, the better decisions they can make. If you create a culture where staff will inform their managers about the decisions they take, the managers can take action in the event that the decision was inappropriate.

Risk-assess: Teach people to risk-assess their own decisions. Before making a decision on their own, team members should consider whether this decision should be considered, whether this decision will have any legal, safety, reputational or financial implications, if they get it wrong. If not, this is a rule of thumb that your staff can make the decision on their own.



Manager’s role
There are the 10 most important principles for managing people in a way that reinforces employee empowerment, accomplishment and contribution. These management actions enable both the people who work with you and the people who report to you to soar.

1.Demonstrate that you value people: Your regard for people shines through in all of your actions and words. Your facial expression, your body language and your words express what you are thinking about the people who report to you. 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 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 organisation’s overall mission, vision and strategic plans. It’s a better option to include employees in the actual planning on the product and department level and ask for their input on the overall plan. They will ‘own’ the direction and surprise you with their commitment and competency.

3.Share goals and direction: When possible, involve employees in goal setting and planning. They add value, knowledge, ideas, insight and experience that you won’t find in your senior team. At the very least, involve them in goal setting at the department level and share the most important goals and direction for your group.
With the help of your employees, 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. If you share a picture and share meaning, you have agreed upon what constitutes a successful and acceptable deliverable. Empowered employees can then chart their course without close supervision.

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. When employees receive expectations from their manager, they relax and trust you. They focus their energy on accomplishing, not on wondering, worrying and second-guessing.

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, not just more work: Don’t just delegate the drudge work, delegate some of the fun stuff too. Delegate the important meetings, the committee memberships that influence product development and decision-making and the projects that people and customers notice. The employee will grow and develop new skills. Your plate will be less full so you can concentrate on contribution.

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. People deserve your constructive feedback too, so they can continue to develop their knowledge and skills.

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. Worst case response to problems? Seek to identify and punish the guilty. (Thank you, Dr. Deming.)

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. When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, “What do you think you should do to solve this problem?” Or ask, “What action steps do you recommend?” Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process. Eventually, you will feel comfortable telling the employee that he or she need not ask you about similar situations. You trust their judgment.

10.Help employees feel rewarded: 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, that extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work. For successful employee empowerment, recognition plays a significant role.

(To be continued next week)
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at
lionwije@live.com)

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