Dr. Paul Metler
3 Ways to Invest in Real Employee Empowerment
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
There is something contagious about a culture with highly engaged employees. Energy and a positive expectation about the future seem to permeate the atmosphere. What leader does not want that kind of environment? It’s not easy to get there. Most recipes for this kind of culture include a sizable measure of empowerment. Employees thrive when they are able to flex their leadership capacity.
In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek describes the “power” of empowerment for companies that want to raise the bar. According to Sinek, “the strength and endurance of a company does not come from products or services but from how well their people pull together.” Any team, large or small, that wants to be successful in a tug of war with competitive forces that rage against success, must learn to harness the power of everyone who is holding the rope.
So how do leaders deliver empowerment? How do they prepare their people to pull together? Before describing some of the essentials, it’s important to provide a warning. It’s easy to think of empowerment as a decree or a decision from above. Once the ROI on empowerment becomes clear, it’s tempting to wave the proverbial wand and declare that all employees are empowered to make decisions and solve problems. It’s not that simple. Effective empowerment cannot be legislated. It must be cultivated.
Just like any recipe, it’s important to start with a clear picture of what the end result is supposed to look like. Genuine empowerment provides health. It enables employees to stretch and grow. Healthy employees create healthy companies that are stronger and more resilient. According to Richard Hallowell, healthy employees “Shine.”
“What really matters is what you do with what you’ve got. If you hold nothing back, if you take chances and give your all, if you serve the world well, then you will exult in what you’ve done and you will shine.”
Empowered employees have what they need to shine. But sometimes those talents and abilities remain hidden. The best leaders will set others free to perform at their highest level. There are many factors that contribute to empowerment. But, if you want to boost employee empowerment, these three are essential.
As noted previously, empowerment is not produced by the stroke of a pen or a plaque on the wall. The first investment in empowerment is time. Take time to envision the future. Clarify what is important. Clarity will become the basis for consistent action throughout the organization. Take time to listen and understand the leaders around you. What are the behavioral patterns that undermine the practical steps necessary to empower others? Take time to communicate. Every business has a unique story to tell. Take time to learn what empowerment will look like in your context. Then, take time to build an empowered culture together. Collaboration requires the wise investment of the most precious resource. It’s time.
There is a sequence to this recipe for empowerment. Healthy trust takes time. As you practice healthy collaboration throughout all levels of the organization and create a safe environment for open communication you will build trust. Empowerment requires trust. A lack of trust will cause effective and efficient decision-making to stall. If your efforts at empowerment have stalled, take a look around. It is usually because of a lack of trust. Critical resources required for success are carefully guarded. Silos are prevalent. Competition is rampant. When trust is low, fear of failure is high. Empowerment will never take root in a culture with high levels of fear and low levels of trust.
With a wise investment of time and healthy levels of trust, truth flows like a river. Impeccable communication is the last critical ingredient for an empowered culture. Empowered employees do not hide the truth. Instead, they speak with clarity and confidence. They give and receive any information that will help others succeed. They share lessons learned without coloring or nuancing the lessons with image management techniques. Empowerment requires open and honest feedback. Such honesty is a catalyst for shared leadership and authentic empowerment.
To learn more about how Leadership Transformation translates into widespread empowerment visit us at Initiative-One.com