Fostering Excellence
Bringing out the best in each of us
It is a truism of business that successful organizations empower their employees. Empowerment engenders increased employee engagement, a greater sense of ownership, and more innovation, to say nothing of more hard work. Empowerment is a critical component of any vibrant work place. When teams have the resources they need, the authority commensurate with their goals, and the flexibility to innovate, they accomplish fantastic things.

Empowerment takes deliberate effort-it does not happen as a matter of course. Effective empowerment will take some careful, deliberate thought. Never assume that your employees are fully empowered, this is often more you can do to empower them. As an empowering leader, you will want to consider your employees’ functions from a variety of angles to identify the opportunities you have to empower them. Where they work, when they work, how they work, and with whom are four lenses from which you may look to empower your workforce:

The 3 W’s (and H) of Empowering Employees

Where – Allowing your workforce to have some control about where they work can have a tremendously empowering effect. Do all of the tasks you need them to accomplish have to occur at a brick and mortar office or facility? Take some care to sort through all the tasks you want your employees to accomplish. If some could be done on their terms, remotely from a café for instance, then allow them to the flexibility to decide where those tasks are accomplished.  Empowering in this way will engender trust with your workforce.

When – Many tasks and functions of the modern workforce need not occur during the 9-5 work day. As a sophisticated leader, you will be able to sort through the tasks that absolutely need to be done during business hours and those that don’t. To the extent possible, allow your workforce to accomplish as many tasks during a schedule that fits their lives best. In this way, your business can move forward with an appreciative workforce empowered to determine when they work. If you don’t trust your organization to have ownership of when they work, again where feasible, then it’s time to make some personnel changes.  When you have the right folks on board, this is an easy and effective way to empower.

Who – Involving your workforce in deciding whom they work with can give them a potent sense of empowerment and job satisfaction. No one likes getting saddled with lazy or ineffective coworkers. Empower your workforce by involving them in hiring – interviews and recruiting for instance. Additionally, involving the larger workforce in deciding how evaluations and promotions will occur can give them some control over whom they work with. Consider using 360 degree evaluations. Look inward to your recruitment, retention, evaluation and promotion procedures and find empowerment opportunities!

How – Telling your workforce exactly how to meet every task can be very demotivating. Taking some time to articulate to yourself and your employees what product, service or task you want accomplished. Focus away from how you want it done-this can keep you grounded in ends not means. Let your employees’ creative juices flow and allow them to figure out how to meet the endstates you have given them. Not only will you have empowered your employees, but you will make the job much more fun!

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Empowerment is an art; there is no one size fits all for every organization. However, you have incredible potential to empower your organization, whatever its nature, but looking at your employee’s functions and tasks from the perspectives of where, when, who and how.

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.