Stepping outside the box – workplace empowerment and trust
“Trust your team to do their job – that’s why you hired them. Trust them to make decisions based on changing circumstances. Empower them – it will benefit you and the organisation you both work for”
Julia Kitchen, from 21st Century Workplace Seminar
If Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness could be friends and laugh at each other’s jokes then anything is possible.
I am always astonished when clients say that they do not want their employees working from home or anywhere other than at their desk. Their reason for this is usually that they want to be able to see them working and do not trust them to be working if out of sight. I always want to say (and sometimes do) – why are you hiring staff you do not trust?
The workplace would be a happier and more well-oiled machine if everyone in every job was empowered to:
- do their job in the way that made sense to them and maximised their contribution to the organisation
- make decisions based on what they know of company policy, the current management priorities and any circumstances arising
- use their common sense.
Each individual understands their job and their responsibilities. They are familiar with the unique context for this job and these responsibilities, more so than anyone else. They are the best person to make decisions about how to do that job and how to respond to any circumstances which might arise.
Empowered employees also need a supportive corporate culture without fear of reprisal in the event of a wrong decision. (You know, those wrong decisions we all make…..)
Lack of empowerment and trust has made teachers, police officers and GP teams, to name just three, less effective at their jobs and has made those jobs less enjoyable, less fulfilling, less rewarding and less attractive to prospective employees. Their working lives are prescribed, monitored, subject to change without consultation and they are working to someone else’s agenda. Why would we do that? Why would we want that? In virtually every client organisation, I see people who are not empowered and trusted to do their job. That is always to the detriment of the organisation.
- Security guard not empowered to sanction an installation crew to use the other passenger lift when the first passenger lift breaks down out of hours. Result: crew carry furniture up eight flights of stairs
- Patient who does not need to be in hospital kept in overnight to secure a place for a test the next day. Outpatient waiting time for this test is 25 days and the test is needed urgently for the patient’s health and diagnosis. The Senior Consultant does not have the power to send the patient home and ask him to return for the test the next morning. Result: the patient takes up a hospital bed unnecessarily, incurring expense and is upset to be separated from his family
Everyone needs a framework for their job: specific responsibilities, objectives, line management structure and constraints. They also a need a culture where consulting others or asking for assistance is the norm and to be empowered to ask for advice or help when, in their judgement, it is needed.
Empowered employees will flourish in the sunlight of this trust and confidence in them and will do their job better than anyone could ever have imagined.
Micro managing is also very time-consuming for managers and supervisors. They have their own job to focus on and that has to be a more important contribution than micro-managing. Managers and supervisors need regular contact with team members and need to be available when support is required but otherwise need to empower, trust and retreat.
Occasionally someone will not thrive when empowered and trusted but this is so rare I could not think of a single example I had encountered in the last ten years.
Dare to step outside that box