I always struggle when Leaders advise me that their Team Members are empowered. What does this really mean?
Mariela when working with our clients has the best definition of empowerment “Freedom within Limits”.
Let us clarify the word “Limits” for many the limit is defined through their policies, procedures or even their ISO designation. But I cannot tell you how any times I have become frustrated because the most uncommon sense of common sense is shielded with “We cannot do that, it is against our policy” Heaven forbid … until you either call a supervisor or even better the business owner that hopefully has a functioning brain.
I like to define “Limits” like the foul lines on a baseball field. As long as the ball falls within the boundaries of the foul lines it can be played … no need to seek clarification or direction just go do!!!
Foul lines can change through time as we gain skill and experience … but they always have a foundation built on a moral compass that can be expressed with your organizations’ aspirations and beliefs, vision and mission and ultimately your Brand Image. I agree some leaders micro-manage Brand Image but they remain committed to their “True North” and that does not mean that others cannot be empowered.
Babies when they learn to crawl are empowered to roll wherever until they are stopped by a barricade or immovable object. As they learn to walk they may be limited to the interior of the home. Later they are allowed to play outside but need to be home in time for dinner or as it was for me, when I was going to school had to be home by 10 p.m. on school nights and midnight on weekends while in the background my parents were praying that I would adhere to the moral compass they had attempted to program into my DNA.
So what are your Organizational empowerment foul lines? Similar to Quality where “Operator Error” has never been an acceptable excuse, never should “it is against our policy” be accepted. A customer [internal or external] deserves a better explanation of why a certain guide is in place rather than a simple no.
Empowerment should be encouraged and when tested should not result in disciplinary action but rather as a teaching moment. Ultimately, your Team Members emulate you, your Brand and what you stand for and if you can emulate passion, understanding while providing true value … that will be communicated to 10 other people and those 10 people will want a similar experience so each one of them can again tell 10 other people … and so it goes.
A great enabler of empowerment is something as simple as a Dash Board.