Empowerment is a Win-Win

Empowerment helps you get Wow resultsWhat would your life be like if all of your employees were a high-producing sales force and an outstanding customer service staff rolled into one? 

What if you could take a day off, confident that effective work would be done. Problems would be solved without you having to step in?

It’s not just a dream, it’s what happens when you practice empowerment.

It Starts with Hiring Smart

Years ago, I started a career counseling business.  One of my bragging points I used to say was that I hired people smarter than me.

Call it karma or whatever, I later took a job with a company called Sherikon that specialized in government service contracts; in fact it was their lifeblood.  It was a private company and the owner/president, Ed Fernandez, was a great presence and leader.  He used to constantly brag that the success of his company was that he hired people smarter than him and then got out of their way and let them do their job!

It’s Also What You Do AFTER You Hire Smart

That’s not the complete story, however.  Not only did he hire people smarter than him (or so he says) but he also equipped them and empowered them to do their jobs for the welfare of the organization. And that’s important.

Here’s how he did it. They lived and breathed on government contracts. Therefore I and every other new hire attended a multi-day training course on how to seek out, pursue, bid, and secure government contracts.

I found out that every single employee in the company was put through that training. Line workers, administrative assistants, all the way up (and down) the ladder.  EVERYONE.

Equip and Send

Not only that, but after we completed the training we were told that we were AUTHORIZED to go out and get contracts. If we did, then we would be placed on the work for that contract and if possible trained to be the project manager.  So there was not only benefits for the organization but the individual employee as well.

That’s what we want as well: every single employee working for the welfare of the organization. Whether through increased sales, outstanding customer service, or top-level efficiency.  And all without us having to put our fingers in.

Empowerment Starts with Building Believers

Empowerment Builds believersZig Ziglar used to say you need the mindset that the Sales Department is not our whole company, but our whole company is the sales department. Every employee from the janitor to the CEO emulates the values and speaks the gospel of the organization. They represent that in the way to they speak to EVERY SINGLE CALLER and customer.

Here’s the catch.

Your employees can only effectively represent the organization IF they understand it’s values and have bought into it. IF they are provided with the tools they need to communicate the message. Only IF they KNOW they are given the authority to set the stage for sales, provide over the top service, and solve problems. No one can represent effectively and consistently what they don’t understand and don’t believe.

How Successful Leaders Empower Their Team

  • Model Expected Behavior – Demonstrate the behavior you desire.  Do as I say and not as I do did not work when you were a kid and it won’t work with your team.  You must daily model whatever behaviors you expect from them.
  • Set Expectations – This is critical. You must let them know exactly what you expect from them. Without this, it is almost impossible for them to measure up and you will be disappointed. So will they and they won’t try again.
  • Equip Them to Do It – Provide them with what they need to do the job.  You can’t just say, “yeah, go out and get government contracts” and not train them on how to find them, bid on them, and secure them.
  • Go Hands Free – If you are the person who has to have their fingers in every pie or have total control then you are not really empowering people. In addition, you are not going to get the results you want.  You have to be able to let go of things. This is the hardest thing for entrepreneurs to do. They spend so much time being involved in everything out of necessity, it’s hard to let go when it’s no longer practical or desirable. Remember the objective here is not just benefit the organization or the employee but you as well.

Empowerment is always a win-win situation. Employees who are empowered are more engaged. Therefore they are more productive. The organization wins, they win, and the customer wins.

And you get a more peace of mind and perhaps even a little more time on your schedule.

I would love to hear how you or your organization empowers their employees. Leave your comments here or drop me a line at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com.

And HEY, why not get a copy of my e-Book 15 Innovative Ways to Show Employees You Care! It’s my gift to you. Get it now!

Return From Camp

Raven_Knob_signAs I mentioned in the last post, I recently escorted 19 Boy Scouts to summer camp at Raven Knob Scout Reservation near Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  Being as there is generally not a lot for adults to do there, I was able to spend a lot of time observing, reflecting, and planning.  This is our second straight year at this camp and we plan to return next year as well, primarily because this particular camp is so well run.  The amazing part of it is that the program is almost entirely run by Boy Scouts, not adults.  And by almost entirely, I mean that the adults involved are in supporting roles and primarily managerial roles.  The Program Director on down are Scouts running the show!

Now, summer camps by necessity are pretty well-structured and offer lots of programs.  A Boy Scout camp is no different, offering opportunities for the boys to work towards rank advancement or earning merit badges.  All that structure requires a lot of staff members to make it go, providing administration, program, food service, and other elements.  When you have a program that is well-organized and runs smoothly with that many factors and personnel involved, and it is run by boys; well, that deserves a little looking at to find out why.  So, I did.

The Raven Knob Difference

The Camp Director is Keith Bobbitt and my understanding is that his philosophy and approach is what drives the success of this camp.  Keith is what we call a Professional Scouter, an adult who gets paid to do this.  In talking with Keith both last year and this year, I am struck by the awesome leadership he exhibits with the summer camp program.  Keith has developed a vision and core values that are the cornerstone of the program.  Applicants to work summer camp are carefully reviewed and selected.  All staff members are required to attend ongoing training in how the camp runs, their roles, and their leadership.  As camp goes on, Keith and his team identify staff members who exhibit extraordinary competence and leadership.  Those candidates are then provided with additional training and guidance, moved to more challenging roles, and return the next year to serve in higher capacity.

As I mentioned, even the Program Director is a Scout.  He is responsible to lead all the section directors (also mostly all Scouts) and lead daily meetings with adult leaders from all the troops that attend to keep them informed.  If you have an issue during camp, you will speak to Scout to get it resolved.  When I asked Keith Bobbitt about the Program Director role and how he can confidently fill it with a Scout, he told me that the person for the that position has actually been trained over a few years to fill it.  He even confidently boasted to me that when the current Program Director ages out of Scouting or moves on, he has 3-4 others already prepared to take that role on and maintain the consistency in the effectiveness of the camp.

Vision, Empowerment, and a Commitment to Excellence

A few take-aways for me stood out from observing the week, not all of it new but certainly reinforced:

  1. Vision helps everyone perform better.  What’s amazing about Camp Raven Knob is not just that it is run by boys — other Boy Scout camps do that as well — but rather that it is run so smoothly and efficiently by boys.  They were always courteous and helpful.  And while those two words are part of the Scout Law and you would expect them to be that way at every camp; the reality is that not all of them go the extra mile with it like they do at Raven Knob.  I believe it is because the vision of what they want the camp to be is consistently communicated to the staff.  Once they understand the vision, it sets an expectation, which then makes it easier for the staff to behave in a manner consistent with that vision.
  2. Empowerment lets each person contribute and spreads the load.  When you provide the vision, tell them to go make it happen, and get out of their way then most everyone will rise to the occasion and perform based on the vision.  By empowering the Program Director to run things, make decisions, and make changes as necessary, Keith not only allows that Scout to truly contribute to the success of the camp, he is making his own load lighter as well.  When the Program Director allows his section directors to do their jobs and make decisions, he also is developing people and lightening his own load.  I daresay that if the Program Director kept all the decision making to himself, he would go crazy around week 2 or 3.
  3. Boys teach me more than I ever teach them.  They had challenges of bad weather at points, being in a totally unfamiliar environment, hustling around from session to session all day, and yet took the time to thoroughly enjoy themselves and get to know each other better.  I believe our troop firmed up their relationships that week through the shared experiences and the resulting “inside jokes” from that.  Litigious spiders, “are we there yet? Yes, get out!”, playing SetBack, and “Hey, Hi!” will all become cultural components of our troop.  And it reminded me of things I often forget in “the real world”.