Success Builders Inc. Article of The Month
January, 2001

The term "empowerment" has become one of the proverbial buzzwords in the business environment over the last decade. There are stories galore of organizations that have embarked upon creating an empowered workforce and have failed miserably. Perhaps the confusion surrounding what "empowerment" really means has contributed to the questions regarding what to do with this idea in practice. The real paradox of empowerment is that nowhere is strong leadership and coaching more important than in developing an empowered workforce. Empowerment is not about abdication or assuming that people inherently know what to do. It's about carefully coaching people and guiding them in directions that will enable them to assume greater ownership, knowledge and responsibility for their jobs. This is important regardless of whether you’re responsible for a corporate team, a small business, a volunteer organization or a Girl Scout troop.

Here are 10 coaching tips for creating an excited, competent, and yes, empowered, team!

1. Share your vision for the future. The first job of coaches as leaders is to paint a clear vision of where the organization is headed and to share this with your employees. Vision becomes the basis and the guiding light for establishing individual goals.

2. Respect and value the differences among your employees. The best coaches recognize the advantage in having people with different mixes of skills, strengths and personal styles. Make sure your employees feel valued for being exactly who they are.

3. Whenever possible, ask vs. tell. The simplest way to draw forth your employees' creativity is to ask lots of thought-provoking questions. Conversely, the quickest way to squelch creativity is to do a lot of telling. When you ask vs. tell, you'll be amazed at the quality of solutions that are generated, as well as the energy behind them.

4. Hear what is being said, and listen for what is NOT being said. By listening for things like values, dreams, concerns, fears and frustrations, you can discern the message behind the message. This will enable you to acknowledge and work with your employees from their frame of reference instead of yours.

5. Give permission to make mistakes! Were it not for mistakes, the world would not have Post-It notes, WD-40, Velcro, or a variety of other valuable products and services. Employees who feel that it's OK to take calculated risks and make a few mistakes are more creative, more contributory, and more productive.

6. Help people see beyond where they are now. A good coach helps employees envision what is possible in terms of their personal growth and development, and helps them create a plan to get there. This is the first step in building new skills and capabilities.

7. Suspend your expertise. It is human nature to be reluctant to offer suggestions to someone who has positioned himself as the "expert". Your employees will be far more inclined to tackle the tough problems if they aren't led to believe that you have all the answers.

8. Lighten up and have fun at work! Life is too short to do otherwise. Laughter is good medicine, and it frees up creative energy. Have fun, and help your employees have fun, too.

9. Focus on developing people, not the scoreboard. One of the great paradoxes of business is that if you focus on people first and results second, you will be more likely to get the results that
you want.

10. Expect amazing things from your employees. Positive expectancies breed positive results. Let people know that you expect amazing things from them, and amazing things will happen!

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