The Power of an Empowerment Culture

Underperforming organizations are usually over-managed and under-led” – Warren Bennis

The best managers are also great leaders, effectively applying the science of management along with the art of leadership. People naturally follow leaders out of trust, respect and personal motivation. Leaders set the right example and bring out the best in the people who follow them.

Effective leaders are connected, engaged and have a passion for their mission. They build teams and instill a vision, motivation and passion in the teams they lead. Leaders are coaches, helping the members of their teams to excel and grow. They freely give positive & negative feedback to team members, building skills and confidence. Effective leaders build winning teams that take pride in their performance.

According to Brent L. Simmons’ article Employee Empowerment: Why it Matters and How to Get it, “The evidence shows empowered employees are a result of both things about the workplace/job and things about the employee. To make the job more empowered, you need to provide positive leadership (e.g. trust, authenticity, support), high-performance managerial practices (e.g. training, rewards, recognition, participatory decision making), social/political support (e.g. access to resources, information sharing, fairness), and work characteristics (interesting work with a variety of different tasks).”

Preparing Employees to Participate in an OC of Empowerment

Employees must be open to the idea of working in an environment of empowerment. To do this, employees need to understand what empowerment means, develop skills in, and practice – (1) open communication, (2) work in teams, (3) critical thinking and listening skills, (4) dealing with ambiguity, (5) resilience and courage and (6) accepting responsibility.

  1. Open Communication – OC’s that promote innovation and creativity are characterized by a willingness to openly engage in direct interaction where ideas and suggestions are owned and challenged through open discussion and dialogue. In other words, are employees willing to openly discuss ideas or do they simply acquiesce under coercion.
  2. Ability and willingness to work in a Team Environment – Do you create an OC where employees are in competition with one another or do they respect and encourage the contributions of others? Empowerment is not a win-lose proposition where one employee’s power is boosted at the expense of another.
  3. Critical Thinking and Critical Listening – In empowered organization’s employees are committed to thinking and acting for the success of the organization. Critical thinking empowers employees to think about the future and take proactive actions, recognize trends, and anticipate events or outcomes that may affect the organization and form interactions with customers, vendors, and other stakeholders.
  4. Dealing with Ambiguity – Moving to an OC of empowerment means giving up established routines where employees adhere to strict policies, procedures and guidelines and trusting others with making decisions even when facts and data remain ambiguous.
  5. Resilience and Courage – Empowerment is very personal. Acceptance of higher levels of responsibility is inherent in an empowering OC.
  6. Accepting Responsibility – Empowerment is more than delegation, it encompasses accountability so that employees are not engaged in blaming others for things that go wrong and failure to produce results. Employees are encouraged and supported to learn from their mistakes and are willing to have their contributions measured through objective written assessment and performance appraisals so they can gain valuable feedback on opportunities for improvement.

There is no doubt that engaging your employees unleashes extraordinary potential. Does your organization have what it takes to create an OC of empowerment?

– Cindy

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