A Knowledge Worker Age Culture of empowered people, it is thought, can outperform an Industrial Age culture 50 times. Why? Because people are empowered to think for themselves instead of waiting to be told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it!
People are also collaborating in a team-oriented environment where they are solving problems and generating new ideas on how to effectively do the job and take care of customers. A collaborative culture is a learning environment. It creates a spiral of continuous improvement. It is energizing. It is self-perpetuating.
Empowerment has, no doubt, become critical to success. Furthermore, younger generations thrive in a high trust culture where empowerment and collaboration exists. They will not work in an Industrial Age culture of micro-management, power, control, and fear-based leadership. And, a true empowered culture cannot be developed and sustained in such a culture.
Many organizational leaders know they need innovative thinking people. They hire new people, younger people, only to have them leave after a short period of time. An innovative-thinking environment of continuous improvement will not occur without having the right culture in place to sustain it.
Do you have an empowered culture? Can you answer “yes” to the following questions?
- Do all your team members, regardless of position or level, have a voice? Do they feel safe sharing their thoughts and ideas, even when they may contradict what you as their leader or manager has said?
- Do you share the goal or vision and when you want it to be completed, and then let your team decide how they will make it happen?
- Do you encourage people to take intelligent risks to do the right thing, and generate new ideas and ways to solve problems? Do you tell them that “we will make mistakes, but we do not learn and grow without taking risks?”
- Do you tell people to “learn from your mistakes” and share what you’ve learned with others so everyone learns? You do not criticize them, especially in front of others, and you do not beat them up. You coach and mentor?
- Do you assign and share leadership roles with other team members so they can learn and to let them know you trust them?
- Do you get out of their way to let them lead, solve problems, generate ideas, and work?
- Do you continuously share information with all your team members? You practice a high level of transparency in communication and actions? There are no hidden agendas?
- Does your culture have accountabilities in place to hold all people, regardless of position, accountable to these same behaviors? People-orientation! Team-orientation! Not boss-oriented!
- You create more leaders, not followers? You coach and develop all people to have a “leader” mindset? Then everyone is empowered? (All these items contribute to developing more leaders and empowering your people.)
Employee morale is higher. Things get done faster. Customer experience is improved. Your cost of doing business declines! Customer loyalty and retention can be arrived at must faster. All these tier directly to the bottom line. Your shareholders are happier.
But, saying you have an empowered culture and truly having one are two totally different things. Your road to developing an empowered culture must be based on practice, not just on talk. And it starts with leadership quality all the way to the front line, as these are your customer-facing people.
I have worked in both kinds of environments (low-trust without empowerment and high-trust with empowerment), and there is a stark contrast to employee morale, customer experience, team collaboration, and results. Empowered people in a high trust environment can accomplish absolutely amazing things. Further, in a low-trust environment, there is generally a higher level of employee illness and absenteeism.
If you answered “yes” to the questions above, you have an empowered culture. As a result, your people are working together as a team. They freely share with one another. They speak their minds to you and each other, respectfully, and with the intent of helping the teams succeed.
It is never about self! It is always about the team! People share best practices with you and other team members. They pick up a fallen comrade who may be struggling, and help him or her succeed.
The team, in turn, succeeds at a higher level. Everything is elevated!
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