How do I create a culture of empowerment?

As the background for your empowerment effort, you want to create a culture of support. To that end consider the following:

- Listen to employees.

- Demonstrate your trust.

- Keep employees informed.

- Help employees balance work and personal lives.

- Offer opportunities for lifetime learning.

- Foster open communication.

- Give bad news straight.

- Encourage reasonable risk.

- Foster autonomy.

- Praise success.

- Link rewards to organizational goals. Tell Me More

Listen to your employees' ideas. More important, determine how to make them work

Demonstrate trust in your employees. If you behave as if you expect them to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, they will go that extra mile to exceed expectations.

Give your employees the real -picture, not corporate speak. They need to be informed.

Help employees balance work and personal demands. Recognize your employees have Uses beyond the office. Working long hours may occasionally be called for, but should not be a measure of performance or a requirement.

Offer opportunities for lifelong learning. The more trained, the more able empowered employees are to assume greater authority.

Foster open communication. Show your employees that you consider yourself and them a part of a team—which means you will share all you hear from senior management when you can do so. (When you are told information in confidence by senior management, that information must remain in confidence. If your employees ask about the topic, admit that the subject is being discussed among senior managers and promise to share with your team conclusions once reached.)

Don't sugarcoat bad news. Likely, your employees will know the real scoop. You'll only lose your workers' trust if you deviate from the truth or wimp out on the bad news.

Encourage reasonable risk. Let your employees know they will not be penalized for taking calculated chances that fail. If there is a mistake made, analyze it with the employee so he or she can avoid a similar error in the future.

Foster autonomy. Make recommendations instead of issuing commands. Better, when an employee comes to you with a question, ask the employee how he or she would handle the problem. If the solution has shortcomings, discuss them with the employee to find ways to shore up his or her solution. Getting an employee to think for himself or herself is critical to empowerment.

Praise successes. When your employees meet or exceed expectations, recognize that fact in public. Praising builds goodwill and also sends the message to all, within and outside your department, that your employees are doing well. If an employee has failed, don't criticize in public or use the situation to play "gotcha" to prove your superior abilities.

Link rewards to organizational goals. Ideally, rewards should reinforce the behavior that leads to attainment of an organization's goals. Rewards should positively reinforce good behaviors and decrease the frequency of undesirable performance.

How important is it for me to help employees find the work "fun"?

Actually, workers list having fun as one of the requirements for a satisfying job. What do they mean by "fun"? Not goofing off. According to studies on what it takes to make jobs fun, the greatest factor cited is teamwork. Employees say that they enjoy coming together as a team in the pursuit of common objectives. They appreciate the camaraderie, with the daily doses of humor and goodwill that come along with it.

When we need to do more with less and job stress is a daily fact of life, laughter can be a way to:

- Reduce stress.

- Eliminate anger.

- Reduce resistance to change.

- Generate creative thinking.

- Improve morale.

- Produce positive attitudes.

- Reduce absenteeism and turnover.

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Adding a little laughter to serious meetings can help a lot. Work is serious business, but the workplace doesn't have to be a solemn place. During tough economic times, it seems almost sacrilegious not to be somber, associating it with higher productivity (putting one's nose to the grindstone), so we work hard at being serious. This is exactly what we shouldn't do. A positive, upbeat environment is healthy in good and bad times.

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