Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Employee Empowerment: A Key Force in Leadership

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Guest post by Ken Myers

Empowerment is an important skill to learn as a leader. Most who rise to the upper echelons of a company get there because of their attention to detail and ability to handle any situation. Unfortunately, these skills do not often translate into engaging with employees. Leaders who assume all of the business’s duties and responsibilities aren’t doing their employees any favors. In fact, this very hands-on approach breeds resentment and disengagement. Empowering your employees to achieve greatness, on the other hand, helps you, your employees, and the business.

Empowerment Leads to Positive Customer Experience

We’ve all had the frustrating experience of talking to an employee who is simply in over their head when it comes to handling your situation. They desperately want to help, but they’re unable to override a sale or present a refund. Perhaps a manager is present to take care of the problem, or maybe you have to wait for a phone call; either way, neither you nor the employee are pleased with the lack of progress during your interaction.

Employees who are empowered to grant comps, issue upgrades, or simply answer customer questions are more engaged in their position, which leads to a more positive customer service experience. Customers site excellent customer service as a reason for remaining loyal to a brand or company year after year. Empowering employees to resolve customer concerns breeds a happy, loyal following.

Employees Cite Lack of Responsibility As Cause of Disengagement

No one wants to feel useless at their job. Whether you’re working part-time at a clothing store or are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you want to have a positive effect on your workplace. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t recognize and harness this desire even though it could benefit the company and the employee.

This disenchantment is painfully clear in the Gallup 2013 State of the American Workplace survey. Most disengaged employees are frustrated by the lack of responsibility and inopportunity for growth in their positions. These employees are costing their employer’s money in lost time and resources. Worse, their frustration is understandable. Employees need to be engaged to be effective. Empowering employees to do the best job possible can help prevent disengagement.

Empowered Employees Ease Managerial Stress

Managers are asked to carry a lot of responsibility in the workplace. While this increase in work is often counteracted by increased pay and better hours, many managers continue taking on responsibilities rather than delegating them to workers, leading to gridlock. Payroll and scheduling may be a necessity in the managerial role, however, other tasks can be done by employees, such as ordering supplies or completing quality control checks. Delegating these tasks to employees allows managers to focus on improving company morale and advancing workplace projects.

Businesses are better served when multiple workers know how to do each job. The conventional wisdom of being indispensable by being the sole person able to order supplies or contact vendors is misguided and hurts businesses. In addition, it injures employee morale, causing disengagement. Reallocating responsibilities to employees provides the empowerment they need to feel more engaged in the workplace and allows managers to focus on the important tasks only they can complete. Delegating duties to employees helps both managers and employees.

How to Properly Empower Employees

While the benefits of empowering employees may be obvious, letting go of the reigns and allowing employees to take on extra duties may scare even the most seasoned leaders. To properly empower your employees you need to determine their needs and the business’ needs, and you need to fully convey your expectations when dispensing power.

Employees work the front lines of the business world and know what would best benefit customers and the business. A full investigation and survey of employee wants and needs should yield some recurring issues that can likely be resolved by employee empowerment. These wants and needs must align with the business vision and create a better business. Finally, you have to explain your expectations to your employees.

For example, a customer service representative that frequently deals with upset customers over fees may have to ask a manager for permission every time a fee is waived. Making the employee constantly put the customer on hold to track down the managereven though the fee may always be waived can create unnecessary tension. Empowering that employee to waive the fee would increase customer service, empower the employee in a way that makes them more engaged, and help the company by creating customer loyalty. If you’ve spoken with your employees on when and why to waive the fee, it’s a no-lose situation.

Employee empowerment is a powerful force in creating a happy workplace. With employee engagement lagging in most companies, the best way to jump ahead of the competition is to create a motivated workforce. Properly empowering employees with clear expectations will benefit the company, the employee, and the customers.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

The Product Management Perspective: Compelling products (or services) create success. To the extent you create great products, that people want to buy, you will achieve success. Creating compelling products comes back to the people. You need people who focus on getting the right products to the right market at the right time. Successful companies establish a product management role (or group), empower them with the ability to make decisions, and hold them accountable for their actions.

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