How do the best run companies in the world beat the competition day in and day out? They treat their customers right. They do that by having a workforce that is excited about their vision and motivated to serve customers at a higher level.
How do you create this motivated workforce? The key is empowerment.
Empowerment means letting people bring their brains to work and allowing them to use their innate knowledge, experience, and motivation to create a healthy quadruple bottom line where your organization is the employer of choice, provider of choice, investment of choice, and corporate citizen of choice. Leaders of the best run companies know that empowering people brings about positive results that just aren’t possible when all the authority moves up the hierarchy and managers shoulder all the responsibility for success.
Researcher Edward Lawler found that when people are given more control and responsibility, their companies achieve a greater return on sales than companies that don’t involve their people. Scholar Thomas Malone believes empowerment is essential for companies that strive to succeed in our knowledge-based economy.
To guide the transition to a culture of empowerment, leaders must use three keys:
- Share information. One of the best ways to build a sense of trust and responsibility in people is by sharing information. Giving team members the information they need enables them to make good business decisions. High performing organizations are always looking for ways to incorporate knowledge into new ways of doing business. Michael Brown, former chief financial officer of Microsoft, says, “The only way to compete today is make your intellectual capital obsolete before anyone else does.”
- Create autonomy through boundaries. Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But in a culture of empowerment, boundaries show people where they can be autonomous and responsible, rather than telling them what they can’t do. Think of it this way: in a hierarchical culture, boundaries are like barbed-wire fences—they are designed to control people by keeping them in certain places and out of other places. In an empowered culture, boundaries are more like rubber bands that can expand to allow people to take on more responsibility as they grow and develop.
- Replace the old hierarchy with self-directed individuals and teams. As people learn to create autonomy by using newly shared information and boundaries, they must move away from dependence on the hierarchy. Self-directed individuals and teams—highly skilled, interactive groups with strong self-managing skills—replace the clarity and support of the hierarchy.
So create a culture of empowerment in your organization. Unleash the power inherent in the knowledge, experience, and internal motivation of your people and let them take the initiative to go beyond problem spotting to problem solving. An empowerment culture will engage your organization and provide your entire workforce with a newfound sense of purpose and fulfillment.
PS: Want to learn more about creating an empowered workforce that takes care of your customers? Download the free 60-page summary of Leading at a Higher Level. It’s available for free on The Ken Blanchard Companies website. Use this link to access the summary.
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