When it comes to performance enablement and empowerment, we need to stop trying to manage performance, which seems to be the prevalent mindset in many organizations today. The word management is about “controlling and making decisions,” neither of which help us maximize performance. When we manage performance, we stifle employees’ ability to be their best and grow. So instead of talking about managing, let’s refer to it as performance enablement and empowerment—two words that really get to what our role in performance should be. But before we dive too deep into enablement and empowerment, we must define exactly what performance is.

Performance is defined by two considerations:

1) the desired or needed results and 2) the way in which the results are achieved.

We can’t just think of performance in terms of how much is delivered because then we have a situation where staff only focus on results and neglect how they achieved those results even if it was to the detriment of others on the team or in violation of professional ethics. Performance metrics need to be aligned with the team or department as well as the objectives and the values of the company.

Let’s talk performance enablement. Performance enablement is the organization giving their people the ability to do something, the ability to perform. To do so, you must provide the following:

  • Training: Continually develop good work habits and skills through a combination of classroom, online, and on-the-job training. Training must be ongoing and account for differing learning styles. Training is the ongoing mastery of the skills needed to do a job and remain up to date with changes occurring in the business or marketplace.
  • Tools to Do the Job: Ensure your people have the things they need to do their job well. As a manager, this is one of your main responsibilities. Ensure there is a process in place that gets the necessary tools to your team on time and at the right time.
  • Technology: Technology has become an important part of our lives, especially at work. Technology should be implemented to make things easier for both the customer and employee.
  • The Right Information: Managers need to be forthcoming and transparent with information an employee needs to do their job and make decisions.

Once employees have what they need, managers need to get out of the way and let their people make decisions. In an article for IndustryWeek, Shawn Casemore stated that it is critical to “let go in order to help employees grow.” This is performance empowerment. Managers must stop being so insecure and concerned that they will not have a job if the staff are making all the decisions. I would agree a manager becomes more valuable when they empower their people and stop controlling so many aspects of the business. They shift from being managers to leaders. But this shift is necessary for everyone to succeed.

Empowerment is a critical part of achieving an engaged workforce. You cannot have engaged employees without first empowering them. Considering that only 51% of US employees are engaged at work, there is a dire need to empower your people.

To empower your people:

  • Stimulate Thinking: Instead of giving answers, ask employees what they would do. Simply asking questions can get your staff thinking as owners and leaders themselves. By asking them for their thoughts, you are telling your employees that you trust their judgment. Empowerment is all about giving staff confidence in their own abilities. Continually remind staff that they can make decisions.
  • Provide Decision-Making Training: Scenario-based training can help staff collectively think what the best solutions or decisions might be. Ideally, this training should take place in an informal environment such as a daily team meeting. Providing staff with a scenario on a daily or weekly basis can get their creative juices flowing and turn them into expert problem solvers.
  • Share Financial Information: Teach your people about financial responsibility and the impact of different decisions on the company’s bottom line. Encourage them to solve problems in a way that benefits both the organization and the customer.
  • Provide a Solid Start: Provide guidelines as new staff come on board. During their onboarding period—that first 30-60 days on the job—there should be plenty of opportunities to teach new hires the guidelines for decision making while they are in a safe learning environment where the customer, product, or service is not inconvenienced.
  • Respond, Don’t React: Be prepared to respond positively when someone gives too much away. In most cases, it’s not the end of the world. Make it a teaching moment, not a punishment. Staff must make mistakes to learn what not to do. Think back to your early days as a leader. I can guarantee you made your fair share of mistakes as well, and it only helped you grow in your role and in the organization.

Remember, the only way a manager becomes truly indispensable is to be dispensable to their teams by enabling and empowering them. If you are selecting the right people, orienting and onboarding them correctly by enabling and empowering them, you set up your people to feel great about themselves and their role, which leads to them being their best for your customers and the business.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my new book, Culture Hacker, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also check out Season 2 of the Culture Hacker Podcast, available on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Recommended Readings:
Top Principles of Employee Empowerment

Photo Credit: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid Flickr via Compfight cc

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