Empowerment – Works Both Ways

By Sharon Worsley

“People just starting their careers may think a job is just a job. But when they choose a company, they often choose a way of life.” – Terrence E. Deal and Allan A. Kennedy

There are some organizations in the business world today that have tons of rules and regulations that are expected to be strictly adhered to by all their employees. This is definitely essential for some of these organizations, especially if there are hazardous materials in play or work practices involved, to ensure the safety of everyone. Additionally, considering the costs both monetarily and reputation for allowing staff to make certain decisions on their own. However, there are other organizations that have mandatory rules and regulations in order to keep ‘the worker’ in line and to act robotic, taking away their option of thinking for themselves and contributing to the organization in a more powerful way.

While it is important in some situations for rules to exist, it can be equally important to provide guidelines to staff rather than strict regulations. Rules after all are important if everyone is to be on the same page in the running of the organization and to ensure that bottom line expectations are met. However, guidelines on the other hand can offer flexibility to allow for the uniqueness and individuality of the employee to shine through.

Unless you want to be a leader who expects their subordinates to shy away from personal judgment, you run the risk of running your organization in a very stilted fashion, which will eventually turn away great employees, ruin customer loyalty and eventually impact your revenues.

As I have travelled around the world staying at many hotels, I have seen the impact of hotels where the staff are not invited to take their own initiative, but instead are required to react from some sort of ‘playbook.’ It is frustrating for the guest and drives them from that hotel or even the hotel chain.

Whereas I have personally experienced or have been told of great customer service situations where the hotel employee made such a difference in their interaction with the guest because they didn’t have to live by some rule book that told them absolutely what they could or could not do in almost every instance. This has definitely been one of the biggest benefits for me in having previously worked for a hotel that was independent of a large hotel chain, where corporate mandates come down from the head office.

I am not saying that as a leader you have to let your staff run wild and do whatever they want to in any and all circumstances. But besides giving them rules to follow, also consider giving them empowerment to make decisions on their own within certain parameters.

For instance, some hotels and even retail chains I know of give latitude to their staff to make decisions at their discretion up to a certain monetary value before they have to get the input from a supervisor or manager. This way they don’t have to make the customer wait and tie up resources as they await the response from someone at a higher level to make a quick decision.

This amount of money can be nominal such as $25 to $200. Not only does it free up the resources I mentioned above but it gives the employee a sense of empowerment and trust from their employer.

For example, in the case of a hotel, if one of the front desk associates heard the guest mention it was their anniversary then the associate could arrange for a bottle of champagne or a cheese and fruit tray to be delivered to the guests suite with the compliments of the hotel. Of course, the guests would be surprised and delighted by this seemingly simple act and would likely tell their friends and family about their great experience. The hotel might even get a nice write up on TripAdvisor®. Think about it, what did it really take for this to happen? Simply, it was empowering a front desk associate to do something like this example. The associate didn’t have to run it up a channel of supervisors or managers for approval.

Other times if there was a delay in rooms being ready, often because the guest has arrived before the check-in time of 4pm, the front desk staff at my previous hotel might offer the guest a cool refreshment in our hotel bar. During peak operating times in the restaurant when meals are running a little slow out of the kitchen, maybe the patrons would be offered a complimentary dessert at the discretion of the server.

As a result of my hotel empowering their staff like this I could list a whole host of great things that the staff did for each other and for our guests without ever having to seek approval from a superior. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have rules and regulations to follow, but wherever possible staff were given guidelines to follow as well, that allowed them to exercise their own personal judgment.

If you take this type of approach already with your organization then I congratulate you, but don’t let that stop you from reviewing how you can up-level this type of commitment to empower your staff further. Don’t forget to seek their input on this as well. For all you know they may want to try something new but have been waiting for you to ask.

Points to Ponder

• How are you currently empowering your staff to make decisions without having to seek approval?
• If you are not empowering your staff right now what would it take to attempt this new strategy and what might the benefits be – these can include staff feeling appreciated for their efforts, good faith with your customers, potential referrals or repeat business etc.
• Should you not be offering this type of opportunity to your staff, consider what your biggest concern is, and then weigh that against the possible benefits.

Sharon Worsley, The Business Development Ninja™ is the creator of the R7 System™ to Flood Your Business With Clients Today, Tomorrow and Beyond, helping businesses to ‘Wake Up, Shake Up, and Show Up’. She also consults and coaches peak performers to excel as leaders. To learn more, contact Sharon at info@sharonworsley.com.