Empowerment is more often used as a buzz word instead of an action. Empowerment should be an action taken by management to drive high performance. One of the reasons for this is that empowering is mistakenly seen as relinquishing control. Those Managers, whose feelings of adequacy rely on control, will struggle with the mere thought of allowing someone else to make the decision. In essence, they struggle to trust their people.
On the other hand, organisations that are driven by leadership, embrace the action of empowering their people. They regard their people as valuable resources, who deserve to be trusted with making decisions. In the same breath, they understand the importance of trust.
Trust makes the difference
A study, by the Ken Blanchard Companies, indicated a high correlation between trustworthy leadership behavior and productive employees. Frankly, it does not take a rocket scientist to discern that trust is pivotal to any healthy relationship.
The study showed a clear correlation between trust and numerous positive employee behaviors, including:
- Loyalty; and
- Decision making.
This research is aptly summarised by Simon Sinek in his statement “When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders.”
Set up to fail
The excuse that many managers use to avoid empowering others, is that they are the skilled workers. They have the degrees, and by default knowledge, required to make the right decisions. They also have a vested interest to protect the incentives they are given when they increase profit.
Managers end up convincing themselves that they have to maintain control. When their control is threatened, they set their people up to fail.
“Very few companies teach us how to lead. That’s like putting someone at a machine and demanding results without showing them how the machine works.” Simon Sinek
This is the reason why it is commonplace to encounter technically specialised supervisors who are ill-equipped to manage people. They have been set up to fail!
A culture of empowerment
True leaders understand that their task is to show their followers that they genuinely trust them. They are willing to empower their people with critical decision making skills. Within the South African context, this encompasses knowledge and practical skills in:
- Poor Performance and Incapacity Management;
- Disciplinary matters;
- Conflict and Grievance Handling;
- Performance Management;
- Basic Labour Law;
- Recruitment and Selection;
- Employment Equity; and
- Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.
In all fairness, how can one expect supervisors to make effective decisions if they have not been equipped to do so? In turn, if this is expected of them without empowerment training, then they have been set up to fail!
Empowerment entails giving supervisors more responsibility and encouraging them to take ownership. However, this autonomy should be accompanied by:
- knowledge to fully inform their choices;
- support and guidance from management through regular check-ins,; and
- an environment of open communication so that questions or concerns can be openly expressed.
An authentic belief in empowerment enables companies to capitalise on talented employees. At the same time, creating a belief in employees that they really matter to the business, makes remarkable things happen.
Bruniquel & Associates, a fully accredited training provider, offers a range of empowerment training. Should your priority be empowerment of your people, click here.
Bradley Pandy and René de Waal
Bruniquel & Associates