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Is your approach to "empowerment" a setup?

bowling-pins-1"Empowerment" is one of those overused terms that achieved pre-eminent status in the world of business jargon. Without question, every leader strives to achieve that seemingly elusive state where leadership teams and employees actually think, behave and make decisions like a business owner. So why is it that in all my years of coaching leaders and companies, only a handful of companies can truly proclaim that they have an empowered workforce? The answer is simple and may even be tough for some leaders to swallow.

FACT: Too many leaders fail to understand that empowerment is an outcome. It is not something a leader bestows upon others. Empowerment is best described as a process of preparing individuals and teams to be confident, assertive and accountable. In order for that to occur, leaders must be willing to invest the time, training, mentoring and resources before relaxing and letting go of the controls. Rush or short-change the preparation process and you'll see those you empowered hesitating to take action and/or making bad decisions. Some of your more over-confident team members will even charge off into roles and decision-making they are totally unprepared for.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to truly achieve an empowered team:

  • Clarify your expectations: Nothing drives drama and conflict in business than a leader's failure to clarify expectations. If you want to achieve empowerment, individuals and teams need clarity on what the objectives are and the timelines to achieve them. Empowering others to achieve vague objectives is truly setting your employees up for failure.

  • Train and mentor in stages: When you empower others, you're actually charging them to think, behave and make decisions like a business owner. The problem is, even business owners mess up royally when they're unprepared. Before giving employees the keys to the kingdom, train and mentor them in stages. Build a strong foundation in the basics of leadership, communication, financial literacy, conflict resolution, systems design and, most of all, what accountability looks like in your company. Once a strong foundation is established, you can build on each employee's or team's strengths.

  • Empower in stages: Every business organization has levels of authority where decisions are made. When leaders hold tight to day-to-day decision making at all or most levels, empowerment is impossible. However, when a leader prepares and then "empowers" others to make decisions and be accountable within their area or level of authority - and gets out of the way - empowerment becomes the outcome.

  • Information flow - open the floodgates: Empowerment thrives in organizations with rapid and concise information-flow systems. I'm not talking information overload. I'm talking about the daily flow of vital information that allows the best decisions to be made at any given time - in each level of authority. Any interference or slow down in information flow usually results in bad decisions and a degrading of urgency.

  • Empowerment done right deserves recognition: If you truly want to become an empowered organization, you must recognize and celebrate empowerment wins. If you can't find a way to spotlight and celebrate the right behaviors, don't even think about becoming an empowered organization.

A company cannot grow if the leader is plugged into and controls every element of the organization. That's the command and control business model that leaves little if any room for empowerment. Set yourself free to focus on growth initiatives by preparing individuals and teams to make the best decisions for the company. It will reveal a whole new world of opportunity for your company - and everyone associated with it.

Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.

Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO and No-Compromise Leadership


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