When people feel empowered they are more productive. It’s an unsurprising conclusion. The Harvard Business Review blog picked up on this theme when commenting on a global study conducted by Gallup of 600,000 employees. Leadership support, recognition, constant communication, and trust were essential to creating a thriving environment where front-line employees felt they had the autonomy to make a real difference in the organization.
Most people equate ‘positions of power’ as meaning there has to be someone beneath them, when it’s really about giving people the power to act on their judgment. It doesn’t matter what position they hold – janitor, barista or finance director. If people feel that they can make calls, they actively look for ways to make improvements that make the entire team, and business, stronger. Same thing occurs in sport.
On the flipside, people lose interest in highly structured environments, where every single decision has to be run past someone further up the chain. The bravest employers and coaches are happy to take the risk that mistakes will be made and learnt from. They then get the benefits of having an engaged team. Micro-managers get to keep control, only to watch on as the exit door keeps swinging open.
Here are some pretty famous examples where creating positions of power has led to winning teams:
- The All Blacks – All Blacks coaches are big on planning, but even bigger on backing their players to change the game when the moment requires. During the 2011 World Cup final against France the team did exactly that. Instead of kicking deep as instructed, the players, sensing a counterattack threat, decided to back themselves. They maintained their discipline and defended the middle of the park in penalty goal territory. They won by a sole point in a nail-biter game.
- The Ritz Carlton – The Ritz-Carlton employs the policy that every employee can use their judgment to spend up to $2,000 on the spot to improve the stay of any guest. By empowering every staffer to deliver for every guest, The Ritz-Carlton has ensconced itself as a Lovemark in the highly competitive hotel market.
- Google – The software gurus have a whole suite of initiatives at their disposal, including flexible work days and creative spaces. Then there’s ‘Googlegeist’, a survey that solicits feedback on hundreds of issues and then enlists volunteer employee teams across the entire company to solve the biggest problems. No surprise they can deliver what they do with half the staff of competitors.