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Employee empowerment: Freedom and responsibility within a culture of discipline

3 min read


The value of employee empowerment is important to sustaining a successful organization — true. But how can a leader create a platform of engagement that facilitates empowerment? Command and control management is out, and in its place lie “track and trust” leadership. Leaders who grasp this change have a clear advantage over leaders who don’t when it comes to employee engagement and employee development. The result? A high-performance organization.

Now, the question remains, how can you make the change in your organization?

6 steps to success

  1. Character-driven leadership

Leaders who understand that they are responsible for their employees as well as the organization are ready to take the first step into this journey. True leadership involves capturing the emotions of followers by helping them understand that professional growth and personal well-being are important to the leader. Staff will not make independent decisions if they have a jerk “boss.”

  1. Define and embrace a culture

Establishing the purpose, values, vision and mission result in the organizational code of conduct. Staff will understand the process for prioritizing and making decisions. Personal and organizational visions will become entwined, benefiting both.

  1. Determine fit

Place the right people in the jobs that will allow them to reach self-efficacy. Individuals will raise their personal bar each time they achieve success. Set your employees up to succeed, not to fail.

  1. Create systems and processes

Real leaders embrace systems and processes; they realize that when clearly stated and used, staff will not only perform their duties but also improve those processes through discretionary thinking. Managers, however, are less likely to embrace systems and processes; they detract from their ability to give orders. Some systems and processes will be mandatory, such as safety. Others will be guidelines for meeting goals.

  1. Freedom and responsibility

The culture determines organizational behavior and individual discipline. Allow staff to be free to make decisions in their areas of responsibility. Trust them to track their performance. It is important that staff understand that the freedom to perform also carries a responsibility for the welfare of the organization.

  1. Celebrate success; analyze failure without blame

Celebrating the success of a staff member who has made a key decision should be commonplace. The differentiator for successful employee empowerment is how leadership handles failure. If an employee follows the company culture and makes a decision using their “freedom and responsibility” that results in failure, the leader’s actions after that failure become critical. The most effective way to deal with failure is to determine what led to it and what steps can help ensure it does not happen again, communicate the discovery to all involved and then congratulate the staff member for trying. Everyone close to the employee who failed will soon discover that leadership actually believes in and practices employee empowerment.

We all have thousands of thoughts a day. How many are focused on improving the team, the department, the company? Employee empowerment captures thoughts that would normally be used to think about off-work activities. If two hands are better than one, think about the difference 50 brains working independently could make in your organization!

Thomas J. Walter is a serial entrepreneur, author and speaker who has started 29 companies and acquired three. Six of those companies were employee-initiated startups. Those employees are now equal shareholders and leaders. He is co-author of “It’s My Company Too!” He is on Twitter @TomWalter1971.