– Give (someone) the authority or power to do something
– Make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights
What is your Friday routine like at the office? If it’s like most companies, production and creativity are most likely subject to distraction by the fifty-two-free mini-vacations called “weekends”. C’mon . . .TGIF! But let’s focus on one company. Here, every Friday includes a weekly, scheduled, all-hands meeting that can last a couple of hours — where employees ask questions directly to the company’s top leaders and other executives about any number of company issues. It bears no resemblance to your standard conference call: it has no set agenda, it isn’t a monologue and the staff looks forward to it. At this point, you are most likely picturing some new, upstart small company, or at most a mid-sized corporation. And if you think in terms of production, the thought of wasting two hours on a call based on Q&A seems counterproductive. So, who in their right mind would operate this way?
If you guessed Google, you are correct. According to Larry Page, CEO and Co-Founder of Google, “It’s important that the company be a family, that people feel that they’re part of the company and that the company is like a family to them. When you treat people that way, you get better productivity.” You know what the result is for this type of corporate culture? Success.
First, let’s talk about “corporate culture”, which has become an overused buzzword with companies over the last decade. Corporate culture is all about the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and execute business. Often, corporate culture is implied, not necessarily defined, and will develop organically over time from the cumulative traits of senior leadership and key staff. Too many start-ups talk about their corporate culture when in fact developing a culture takes years, consistent leadership, successful growth and key contributors within who buy-in to your long-term goals.
Now, let’s discuss empowerment. First and foremost, I believe that true empowerment is essential to a company’s advancement of their corporate culture. In other words, you can’t have one without the other. Empowerment does not happen by accident — that’s why I refer to it as “the culture of empowerment”. Empowerment is a developed core value, exhibited within a company’s mission statement and a critical training component at all levels. It is the ongoing process of providing the tools, training, resources, encouragement and motivation your employees need to perform at an optimum level. Empowerment is the equivalent to trained creative freedom. Empowering your employees is trust. If you can’t trust them to make decisions on their own, then why are they in that position? Empowerment allows a team member to feel part of something bigger, where they can make a direct contribution each day. The consequences of successful empowerment lead to numerous benefits that have an impact on the bottom line. People feel valued, they develop a sense of pride and ownership in their work, and they are loyal and committed. Not only does it occur internally, but it will manifest itself externally to your clients, with the outcome a higher degree of customer loyalty.
Seems simple, right – a culture of empowerment? The challenge for some leaders is that they confuse empowerment with delegation. If you are assigning mundane tasks without consistent and energetic dialogue that provides direction, and clearly defined benchmarks to discuss progress, you are not empowering your employee. Empowerment requires you to become a mentor in the process of growth and development. It is your job as a leader within your organization to pay it forward, work toward identifying the right people to think outside their comfort zone and make decisions. There are key team members amongst us that simply lack inspiration, by no fault of their own. Those who thrive on challenge and are looking to discover their strengths are desperate for mentorship.
If we are going to preach patience as a virtue in the development of the leadership process, then we must take accountability in that journey and do these five things:
1) Take careful consideration in who you mentor; it is critical in the process that you empower the right people.
2) Provide them with every resource necessary to act independently in decision-making.
3) Create an environment that inspires growth/development that will motivate employees to want to contribute.
5) Trust your team and empower them to make decisions.
If you are looking for long-term success, you cannot continue to rely upon only your ideas, methodology and execution. To win in the long term, you must execute the culture of empowerment for those who work around you.