Empowermentby Phil Manington
Plan how to get there
Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.
Having done your research into the current situation and the attitudes of your staff and colleagues and then created your vision, you need to plan how to achieve it. The starting point is to make sure that everyone understands your vision and supports it. You need to
- Gain buy-in from your boss and colleagues
- Communicate your vision to everyone in your team – consistently and repeatedly
- Capture their imagination by describing your vision in a picture or words that everyone can relate to.
Core values describe the fundamental, guiding principles that influence our decisions, behaviours and actions. Corporate values are talked about a lot and most companies have a published set of values. Far fewer actively work to embody them in daily working life; as a result, organisations often fail to have their alleged values taken seriously by their employees.
If you want to be successful, you need to support your vision with your own set of corporate or team values. These cannot be imposed – they need to be accepted as a set of shared values. What values do you want your team to live by?
- Minimum cost in all things?
- Maximum profit?
- Customer satisfaction?
An individual’s values are what they are and you will not be able to change these. So, the values you want your team to adopt must ideally be consistent with the values of each individual in the team – or at least not in conflict with them.
The environment affects all members of your team. For example:
- Are the desks and chairs of good quality and comfortable?
- How much space do people have?
- Is the office well ordered or untidy?
- How do people look and dress?
All these factors will have an impact on how people think, feel and act: ‘If I can feel comfortable in this environment I can be more myself. If I can’t, I shall keep the real me hidden.’
Does their environment reflect the values you want your team to live by?
Systems and procedures
The environment that people work in is more than just physical. It also includes all the systems and procedures of the organisation. Do these support an empowerment culture? For example:
- Do you need three signatures to authorise a requisition?
- Are rewards based on performance?
- Are rewards team-based as well as individual?
- Do you have a time-booking system that requires every moment to be accounted for?
- Do people have to become supervisors and managers to continue to gain promotion and reward?
You will probably not have complete freedom to make all the changes that you want – this will depend on how much authority you have. However, there are some simple actions that you might take:
- Create posters and leaflets showing your goals and values
- Put up a notice board to communicate core messages, inspirational quotes, jokes and so on
- Make improvements to the office space, based on staff proposals
- Have a suggestion scheme for improving office procedures and systems
- Initiate upward appraisals within your team (include yourself in this).
You now understand how your people currently behave, what they believe and what does (and does not) motivate them. You have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and have a good idea of the sorts of things you need to change to realise your goals. There is only one thing left to do before you ask anyone else to change: look at yourself and ask ‘what do I need to change about myself?’
The [employee] survey told me that people saw nothing for themselves at Johnsonville. It was a job, a means to some end that lay outside the company. I wanted them to commit themselves to a company goal but they saw little to commit to. And, at that stage, I still couldn’t see that the biggest obstacle to changing their point of view was me. Everything I had learned and experienced to that point had convinced me that anything I didn’t do myself would not be done right. As I saw it, my job was to create the agenda and then motivate ‘them’ to carry it out.
What is your current style of management? Have you been focused on performance: profit margins, cost efficiencies, market share, productivity improvements and so on? Are you seen as the star of your team – the person that people come to with the most challenging problems? Or, perhaps, you like to run a tight ship and have a reputation for always getting a result? The very things that have made you successful and won you promotion may also be the things that will inhibit you from making further progress and creating an empowered team.
The specific aspects that you need to change will obviously depend on you – in other words, on your current skills and behaviours. The personal questions in How empowered is your team? should hopefully provide you with useful pointers, but the key change that you may need to make is from being a traditional manager to becoming a coach or facilitator.
Do not start the empowerment process unless you are willing and able to adopt a coaching style of management.
On the other hand, you may already have a coaching style, in which case you will have a significant advantage over other, possibly older and more experienced, managers. Not only will they need to take on new skills and behaviours; they may need to make a fundamental shift in their beliefs and values. And, for a few, this will be a bigger step than they are prepared or able to take. For anyone, personal changes can be the hardest to make, but it is essential to make changes if you are going to become successful at empowerment.
All your plans will come to nought unless you gain one thing – the trust of your team. You will be in a position to create or destroy trust from the very first action you take. At every moment someone somewhere in your team will be watching you. What they see, hear and interpret will all combine to form their impressions of what you are about. These are your Moments of truth.
There is only one way to build trust – you must walk your talk. A useful principle to operate is this: however you want your people to behave or whatever vision you have for them in the future, you become the living example of that behaviour or vision – now.
However you want your people to behave, you go first.
For example, suppose you want people to take more responsibility for their actions. However you have behaved in the past, from now on, every time you are asked to approve something, ask yourself ‘Why is this coming to me? What could I do to give ownership back to the person? What do they need so that they don’t have to come to me?’ The answer might be that they need some training or more information, or perhaps a procedure needs changing. It might be that sometimes you still have to retain responsibility, but wherever you can you must now take action to remove yourself from the loop.
If you can’t be a good example then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.
Of course, you will make mistakes. But as you build up trust, people will begin to accept and forgive any mistakes you make.
Empowerment is not your responsibility alone – it is the responsibility of everyone in your team. Gaining their involvement requires and demands trust. You have to nurture this trust – this is your responsibility.