Behaviors of Empowerment: Success is Culture Crucial

What is empowerment?  What does an empowered culture look like?

What happens when people feel empowered? 

How does empowering people foster a sense of belonging and ownership? 

This is the second blog in a series of blogs on Empowerment.

An Empowered Culture is Crucial to Success:  As we determined in the first blog in this series, having an empowered culture has become crucial to success, for all organizations. But what does an empowered culture look like?  What does it mean when an individual “feels empowered?” 

Empowerment Defined:  The basic definition of “empower” is to “give power or authority to an individual or people, or to authorize someone.” Or, “to enable or permit.”  These are true, but the foundation of empowerment as it applies to empowering a team or creating an empowered culture goes deeper.

An Empowered Culture is When All People Have a Voice:  You have a culture of empowerment when all people have a voice.  All people feel safe to speak their minds, share, collaborate and be the unique individuals they are. 

There is no fear of repercussion for speaking their minds, for recommending an alternate solution, new way of doing the job, or sharing tools or thoughts with others that will help them succeed.   Everyone feels included and valued. 

People know “we are equally interdependent on one another for success.”  No one is more important than another, including the boss. The “boss” is a team member who provides support and helps the team succeed, and even dives in and gets his or her hands dirty when necessary to help the team succeed.   

Empowerment Begins with Trust: Empowerment begins with the belief that you can “trust” people to do what needs to be done without being micromanaged or brow-beat to do it. People know you trust them to do the job you hired them to do.  Trust and empowerment are linked; one cannot occur without the other.   

I once observed a team empowerment pilot.  The thought was to pilot it with one team, then reproduce it throughout the organization.   The team was told they were empowered to make decisions regarding their jobs and taking care of the customers, etc. and that they did not need to “ask for approval.”   They were told they had the authority to think and make decisions on their own, whereas in the past they had to “ask for permission” or “run it by the supervisor” for approval.   This pilot did not work.  Why? 

In this failed attempt at empowerment, nothing changed in the culture to create trust.  The team members were afraid to make decisions on their own because they were afraid of the consequences if they made a mistake.  They did not trust management, the supervisor, or one another.  Change in culture with supporting behaviors must occur before people feel empowered.   

You cannot command trust and you cannot command empowerment!  Without supporting culture and behaviors, neither occurs. 

Empowerment occurs when people feel safe:  When people feel empowered, they feel safe to be themselves.  They feel a certain level of self-efficacy and security in knowing that if I speak my mind and be myself, no one is going to persecute me, brow-beat me, laugh at me, or judge me. 

People feel free.  Freedom of self-expression and resulting feelings of empowerment energize people and teams. 

Feelings of trust and safety knock down all the perceived and real barriers that keep people from maximizing their individual and team potential. 

These feelings of freedom, of self-efficacy ignite a fire or energy that cannot be put out or shut down.  People feel free to move and go and say and do whatever needs to be done. Why?

When people feel empowered, human needs of respect, purpose and trust are met.  Human needs are powerful intrinsic motivators.   Employee satisfaction is higher.   People collaborate and share more freely.   Employee turnover rates decline.   Everything positive is elevated, including an organization’s bottom line. 

All people regardless of age or anything else, respond positively to an empowered culture.  But, the younger generations, Gen Ys and Plurals, demand such a culture.  They want freedom of expression.  They want a voice.  They want collaboration and team-orientation.  And, they want it for everyone.   

Empowerment Fosters a Sense of Belonging and Personal Ownership:  When people know they are valued as human beings and not just numbers on an organizational chart, they have a sense of belonging which taps into “personal ownership.”   

When people feel they belong, that what they are doing is making a difference to the team and to organizational success, they have a higher level of engagement and loyalty. 

It is more difficult to walk away from a group of people who you know genuinely cares about you.  “I belong here!  I am wanted!  People ‘need’ me! If I am not here, I will leave a gap in the team that will inhibit their ability to succeed.”   

An empowered culture positively impacts everything in your organization. 

Training and Consultation Available to Help You Develop an Empowered Culture:   This Empowerment blog series is not meant to be all inclusive on what is needed to create an Empowered Culture.   Training is available either as self-paced online or live instructor led classes at your site.  Follow this link for more information at Add link.  Download the syllabus free.   Live instructor led costs are negotiable based on many factors, including location.  Reasonable and affordable rates.  Curriculum is based on years of research and proven results achieved through teaching and using the tools.   

About the Author: 

With over 30 years’ experience developing and leading teams in corporate and non-profit environments, Patricia Hatley is a skilled team facilitator who has a passion for teaming and an empowering style of leadership.  She is a leadership author and researcher, speaker, trainer and coach, focusing on developing an empowered culture which is crucial to engaging, and retaining younger generations (Gen Ys) and (Plurals or Gen Zs), in any environment and community.  Her work focuses on developing a culture conducive to engaging and retaining all people.  Her Goal is to “empower people to empower others.”  She believes that all people have a right to be treated with respect, and that developing trust, is the foundation of success today. 

She develops and delivers leadership and management training to business and industry, including serving as an Independent Contractor for community colleges.  Her work focuses on methods that work today and in the future.  A passionate and engaging speaker, she has spoken to groups and conducted training in multiple states about “5 Generations at Work: Attracting, Engaging, and Retaining Gen Ys and Plurals” for business, government, and non-profit organizations.  Her methods and curriculum are proven to be successful in creating an empowered culture.

She has a Master’s of Science in Strategic Leadership (transformational & authentic leadership), a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, studied communications, and has been coached by numerous journalists, authors and educators, as well as completing many leadership programs. A former journalist, lobbyist, and public affairs specialist, she has served in a host of leadership roles spanning her career. 

Currently a national SHRM and Catawba Valley SHRM member, Pat earned her SHRM Certified Professional certification in July 2017.   Her curriculum, “5 Generations @ Work: Attracting, Engaging, and Retaining Them,” has been approved for recertification credits by HRCI and SHRM. 

Her publications, based on over 10 years of research, including her graduate research project, include: “4 Generations @ Work: Leading from Conflict to Collaboration” (2012), “Three Things all People Want” (2013), Digital Grenades (2014), and “4 Generations @ Work: A Case of Empowerment” (2015). Training Module content is based on research and real-world applications and has been proven to be successful in developing empowered and trusting cultures.