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Good Leaders Empower Their Employees

September 19, 2017

I am a fan of the book The Extraordinary Leader by John Zenger and Joseph Folkman. There was a Folkman article recently published by Forbes that I enjoyed. Here’s the first paragraph:

 

“A few weeks ago I was sitting at a restaurant watching waiters step around some food that was spilled on the floor. This went on for almost 10 minutes before the restaurant manager came out with a mop and bucket to clean up the spill. I am fairly certain that cleaning the floors is not part of the restaurant manager’s job description.” What I really liked was a few paragraphs later. Folkman writes the following about employees, “They focus on their part of the job, but rarely identify the work around the edges or the messes that need to be cleaned up. What can you do to create more empowerment and accountability in your team so that team members move from talking about their work, their job and their goals to our work, our project and our objectives? What can you do to help avoid the never-ending excuse making when deadlines are missed and to have an employee acknowledge, “I missed the deadline; it’s all on me!” Having employees who feel accountable and empowered creates a much more pleasant and productive workplace.”

 

Folkman goes on to explain that he looked at data from more than 7,000 employees where his company, Zenger Folkman, measured empowerment along with employee engagement. The results showed that employees “who felt a low level of empowerment were rated with engagement at the 24th percentile, whereas those with a high level of empowerment were at the 79th percentile.” According to Folkman, and me, it is clear that empowerment counts.

 

I’ll get back to Folkman in a bit, but it is storytime…

 

As part of a six-day leadership development program I did in my past life, we used the Campbell Leadership Descriptor from the Center of Creative Leadership as a benchmarking tool to start the program. All participants were asked to complete the Descriptor, rating themselves on certain characteristics of leaders. They were also asked to rate a leader they admired (someone they considered a good leader) and a leader they thought was a poor leader. I won’t get into too many details on the characteristics other than one was empowerment. For me and for others in the program it was interesting to see that in many cases the leader that a person admired scored high on empowerment and the leader that a person thought was a poor leader was low on empowerment. I know for me, an empowering leader is key to me admiring them and wanting to work for them.

 

What can you do to be a more empowering leader? Here are the tips according to Folkman:

 

Be Open to New Ideas – Don’t be the manager who says “If I wanted your opinion, I would have asked for it,” or “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I will take that under consideration.” Be the manager that takes the time to listen to their employees’ ideas.

 

Develop Others. If your employees never have good ideas, you might be the manager that doesn’t help their employees increase their knowledge, skills, expertise or experience. Be the manager that develops their employees, because development and empowerment go hand in hand. Plus, helping people develop shows that we care and value our people.

 

Be a Supportive and Trusted Manager. Don’t be the manager who will stab someone in the back. Be the manager that has their back! If employees trust their manager and feel that their manager would support them, they more likely to feel empowered.

 

Provide Recognition, Rewards and Encouragement. Things that are rewarded are repeated so don’t be the manager that ignores accomplishments. Be the manager who recognize and encourage employees when they see extra effort, appropriate risk taking, etc.

 

Foster a Positive Work Environment. Don’t be the manager who has a work environment full of conflict, where everything is a crisis, and where there is lots of finger pointing or blaming. Be the manager where people feel valued and respected; be the manager with a positive attitude.

 

Give Team Members Authority. Don’t be the manager who empowers someone and then reverses the employee’s decision. Be the manager who empowers the employee to make a decision – you can still stay involved – in other words delegate, but don’t abdicate.

 

Here is a closing thought from Folkman, “Empowerment impacts the engagement of the team, but it also impacts productivity. A study from Zenger Folkman found that only 4% of employees are willing to give extra effort when empowerment is low but 67% as willing when empowerment is high.”

 

Adapted from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joefolkman/2017/03/02/the-6-key-secrets-to-increasing-empowerment-in-your-team/#1b2b74b277a6

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