5 Ways to Empower Employees

What is empowerment?  To empower is to give power to someone else, hence taking it away from yourself or someone else, and giving it to them.  In the context of a job, it usually means giving ‘ownership’ of a task or project to someone and then stepping back.  You will still have to do work, but you will only do work that the empowered one asks of you.  There  is plenty of research that shows the benefits to Morale, Productivity, and Results by empowering employees.  In fact, I’ve written about this before in my green & clean post, but this article will give you 5 methods to empower employees, that maybe you never thought of before.

1. Be Explicit
You can’t empower someone without both letting that person know, they are in charge, and really also the entire organization.   Here’s a great way to do it by email:  “Hello everyone, just want everyone to know that I’m stepping away from Project X and putting XXX in charge.  She/He’s empowered to take all actions necessary to get the job done within the approved budget.”

2. Set Boundaries
Empowerment can be daunting, especially when it’s used infrequently, for the first time, or with new employees.  In these cases, it’s best to set boundaries!  Set a budget, explain the goals very clearly, explain what all the resources available are, and be sure to include yourself in those available resources.

3. Help Prioritize
In any organization, there is usually a lot going on, so much so that many employees feel overwhelmed and not sure what to work on in any given moment.  You can help by being clear with each individual what their priorities should be.   If you have projects that just need “a little attention each day” set a specific amount of time you think would be appropriate.  In general, set a clear priority to all work/tasks and try not to change it.  Remember, something you are empowered to do, will naturally be a higher priority.

4. Be Supportive
Supporting means touching base and reminding the person who is empowered of their resources (including you).  The more junior the empowered person, the more you should touch base.

5. Don’t Take it Back!
Yes, you should be measuring and tracking results, but when things aren’t going how you think they should, RESIST the temptation to jump in and take over.  If you do, you’ve destroyed empowerment, and it’s hard to get it back.  They’ll always know that you could jump in at any time, and start to expect it if they fail.  You have to let them fail, if its going to fail.  This is the hardest, why?  Because you know you can do it, and probably better… but YOU MUST RESIST!  Just offer support, help prioritize, and get out of the way.  Long term, if there is a performance issue, you can address it later, for now, don’t break the empowerment you gave, or it will kill your credibility.

My Quest for a PhD. Why & How.

I love to learn.  I love to read new thing, and practice new things, and be ‘in the know’.  But the one thing I like to do more than learn is… teach.  What better way to teach, then to get a PhD from an AACSB accredited program: and become a professor?

In addition, I am a gamer.  What does that mean?  It means I HAVE to have a new challenge, not just daily, but hourly.  And big goals with big rewards, and big dragons = mega-appealing.  Is there a bigger modern day dragon then a PhD Dissertation Committee?  (maybe, if so, I’ll slay that next!).

So, My Quest for a PhD officially begins this week; and I hope to write about the journey regularly here.

So, where to begin?  This week I attend my first PhD classes.  Honestly though, a lot has happened before this week…. 

  1. I scheduled a GMAT test & took it.  (my score for my MBA was more than 5 years old)
  2. I contacted The University of Texas and researched many of their PhD programs in Marketing and Business. (including calls with teachers and current students).
    1. I rule this option out because I can’t “go without salary” or “not consult until I’ve finished”.
  3. I did lots of google searching on PhD Programs and learned that AACSB accreditation is VITAL to actually becoming a professor.
  4. I contacted several friends in PhD programs, including David Altounian, who introduced me to the three (and only three) programs that have an “Executive PhD” that is AACSB accredited.
  5. I called/researched the three programs.
  6. I went to an information seminar at Oklahoma State University.
  7. I was BLOWN away by the people, instructors, students, and program they have going on there.
  8. I applied, got references, wrote my entry essay… and then…
  9. I had to write a 14-page research proposal… just to be considered for admission. (REALLY)
    1. I like this: it separates hard workers & people who really want it from everyone else!
  10. I was accepted!!!!
  11. I decided, and NOW… this week… I begin my first week of classes.
So, for the next 3+ years, I’ll be pursuing my PhD in Business Research (where I hope to specialize in Marketing).
This means 1 virtual class every Saturday + 3 days in Tulsa Oklahoma at Oklahoma State University.  (yes, I’ll be flying to Oklahoma as often as once per month!).
Special thanks to my bosses and managers at Creeris/Night Owl Games for agreeing to let me do this.
Now… off to class!!!!
Wish me luck on my PhD adventure.  I’ll keep you updated in return.

My Inspiration & Hero: Stephen R Covey

Stephen R Covey is my hero.  He has been a deep inspiration in my life since 2000, when I took his 7 Habits of Highly Effective training classes at Intel (required for management training).  It should be required for all humans.  His seminal books: The 7 Habits and The 8th Habit are life-changing, non-threatening, filled with stories we can all relate to and deeply profound.. not to mention extremely useful for all people (weather you are a stay-at-home mom, a retired nurse, an Engineer or a CEO, or anything else).  If you have not read his book; please do so ASAP.  I have 2 copies I will lend to anyone who wants to read it.  I also have it on cassette tape and audible.  I can lend the cassette tape as well.

That said, I am extremely sad that he passed away today.  I know his legacy is a great one. I hope his books and lectures do not fade into obscurity: they have founded a generation of leaders (multiple generations even).  See you in heaven hero!

Here are a few things you’ve inspired in me:

  1. Character.  You defined it.  You literally defined character and principles in the “lighthouse” analogy.
  2. Communication. You refined it. You put words to the best skills for communicating: Seek First to understand, then to be understood.
  3. The phases of life: You lived it.  You showed me how a person moves from dependence to independence and then to inter-dependence (the final step I’m still trying to make).
  4. The truth of Win-Win.  You proved it is possible.  That Win-Win is an option.. the best option, every time.
  5. How to lead by giving power.  You personified it.  I use the technique in business and with my kids.  *I am their worker, they are the manager of a clean living room.*
  6. How to sharpen the saw.  You did it.  Your very passing: dying as a result of a bike accident (at 79) inspires me to keep sharpening the saw.
  7. SO MUCH MORE… I could go on.  All of your habits and stories taught me something.  Perhaps the most poignant was this: TO TEACH is the GREATEST SERVICE and the best way to LEARN.  I hope to make you proud.

Engineers make better models of business.

The reason is simple. Engineers understand not only the idea of a “dependent variable” and an “independent variable”, but its practical use.

For example, an engineering business model would undoubtedly have a page full of seemingly “independent” variables which control the actual income statement/cash flows/and so forth. How do I know this? Because I’ve made dozens of such models myself, and undeniably people are amazed and appreciative that on one page of the spreadsheet they can see all the variables that (when changed) cause an effect to the master model.

But engineers are (hopefully) wise enough to know that just because a “model” has seemingly independent variables… it is likely and almost certain that many of these variables are not independent at all.

A simple example I will use from a business model I crafted recently. By the way, if it doesn’t roll into a full set of Income Statement, Cash Flows, and Balance Sheet, then its an incomplete model for Business (this is one of the things engineers often miss, and stop at the revenue/cost model).

Here is the example:
I want to model how I am going to acquire customers. For this, I assume that I will advertise. I assume that my cost to “expose” a customer to my product is A (e.g. Google is about 10cents). I then assume that it takes B exposures to gain an interested lead. I then assume that C% of interested leads become paying customers… yielding the following ‘dependent’ variable:

“Cost to acquire a customer” = A * B * C

Engineers are fine with this math, and then quickly fill out a line for “Marketing Expense” in the Income Statement, based on the number of customers I wish to acquire, and maybe even get so complex as to write a routine that “balances the budget” for 5% growth of customers… or some-such.

Of course, Engineers also know that this seeming dependency is only as good as the assumptions behind it… and that reality may be far from this. For example, is it true that a % of customers will convert? Is it true that the cost to gain interest are ‘fixed’? In fact, having been in management, I can say undoubtedly this model is not at all close to ‘reality’…

Nevertheless, it does give a good base starting point (one heck of a good one), especially because with this model, you can see the effect of any changing assumptions in the model. For example, what if it costs $1 to expose a customer!!! EEK!

So, engineers do make better models of business, hopefully know they are wrong… and experienced entrepreneurs know how and when to use these models.

Hint: Don’t use these models to ‘predict’ customer growth, only to estimate Marketing Expense!!! Customer growth has FAR too many variables to rely just on advertising!