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Empowerment for Your Staff

Empowerment for Your Staff

Be of service. Whether you make yourself available to a friend or co-worker, or you make time every month to do volunteer work, there is nothing that harvests more of a feeling of empowerment than being of service to someone in need.

~Gillian Anderson

It is becoming more and more important for managers to empower their staff for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that more Millennials are joining the workforce and more employees are working remotely. The days of telling workers precisely what and how to do their jobs are over. We managers must embrace the desire of this new generation to be empowered.

Understandably, everyone has a different definition of the word “empowerment” and how it relates to their staff. For the sake of clarity, to me it means the art and practice of sharing with your staff the responsibility of running your business. The more responsibility shared, the more you must empower your workforce.

All too often, I am called in to help small businesses that have authoritarian bosses who share little, if any, responsibility with their staff. In almost every one of these cases, the staff truly hates their managers and, unless they are being paid very well, would leave in a heartbeat if they could figure out how to make that happen. Bottom line is that the authoritarian style is a dinosaur among management techniques.

I assure you empowerment of staff is not a fad that will come and go. Rather it is an evolution in management that makes running organizations more efficient and kind. Plus, Millennials make up more and more of the workplace every day, and they will not work in organizations that do not allow for much empowerment.

Consider the success of Google and Zappos. Both of these companies offer much in the area of staff empowerment. Zappos is even moving to a “flat” organization where bosses are limited in number.

Zappos is struggling a bit as staff adjusts to the new flat corporate structure, but I think this could have been caused by a lack of education before the program launched. It does also seem that a flat organizational structure is not nearly as effective in large companies as it is in small ones.

With empowerment, what you want to achieve is the feeling that every employee has a voice in the company and their input matters. You know an organization has great empowerment when staff talks about “my company” or “our company.”

If you look at organizations that have embraced empowerment, you typically see workers providing input on work hours and time management. Plus, you also often see collegial decision-making because these companies really do want to encourage more involvement and commitment from staff.

Empowerment is just going to get bigger and bigger, but it is not for all management cultures. Before you can run an empowered organization, the management style must change from bosses that tell workers what to do to a “coaching” approach. Instead of simply dictating answers, management must cultivate a culture that enables workers to figure out solutions, assuming they have the capacity to do so. The manager acts more like a coach who helps guide the staff member to a decision but does not tell them how to do it. Enabling staff members to work out their own solution results in very empowered workers.

If you are looking to build a more empowered workforce, there are many great sources of information. I recommend “The Most Powerful Brand on Earth: How to Transform Teams, Empower Employees, Integrate Partners, and Mobilize Customers” by Chris Boudreaux and Susan F. Emerick.

Now go out and make your staff feel empowered.

You can do this!

Published: May 17, 2016
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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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