Empowerment

by Phil Manington

What an empowerment culture looks like

So how will you know when you are working in an organisation with an empowerment culture?

Shared vision

In an empowerment culture, everyone has a very clear idea of what the organisation does, who its customers are and what are its products and services. They understand what the company mission is and know how their job contributes to that mission. They feel that their job matters and get a real sense of personal satisfaction when the company achieves its targets.

A common set of values

Typical empowering values include mutual support, collaboration, diversity of views and ideas, continuous improvement, self-development, knowledge-sharing, no blame, risk-taking, open and honest feedback, creativity and innovation.

Management

Managers are role models of company values. Managers encourage their team members to do several things:

  • Express their views without fear
  • Evaluate and develop ideas for improving any aspect of company performance
  • Question and criticise their manager’s ideas and decisions
  • Come up with their own solutions to problems
  • Air their worries and concerns and be willing to address them
  • Develop their own skills and achieve their full potential.

Managers ensure that all team members

  • Know what is expected of them and have the resources to do their job well
  • Are given the opportunity to do what they do best
  • Receive regular, frequent recognition or praise
  • Feel that their views really matter
  • Are given opportunities to develop and grow.

General behaviour

Where there is an empowerment culture in place, people feel in control of their work, confident in their own ability, proud of the contribution they are making and keen to develop further.

Knowledge-sharing is standard practice, as is joint problem-solving. People are willing to take risks and don’t fear retribution if mistakes are made.

People generally welcome change. Further, they are looking for opportunities to make changes that improve performance and are flexible in implementing new ideas or solving problems.

Not everyone displays the same behaviour. Freedom to take the initiative, to make changes and to operate with minimum intervention suits some people more than others. Each employee feels comfortable that they are not being pressured into working according to a set agenda.

What is not seen

Managers do not take action (direct or indirect) against anyone for holding opposing views, criticising decisions, admitting weaknesses or making mistakes.

Decisions are not implemented from the top without any involvement of employees.

There are none of the damaging aspects of office politics. The fox does not exist! (If you want to know who the fox is, see the topic on Political Intelligence.)