Power Trip

Power Trip

Letting Your Employees Do Their Jobs

It would be difficult to find an entrepreneur that wasn’t, at some point, guilty of micro-managing. However, the reality is that if business leaders don’t empower their employees, chances are the organization won’t excel to its fullest potential.

But what is an “empowered employee”? For Donald Guzauckas Jr., general manager of HB Group in North Haven, CT, empowered employees are those who understand the image, culture, goals, and objectives of the company. “Simply offering a goal does not provide enough guidance for staff to act in a manner consistent with the image that we wish to present to our clients and potential clients,” he noted. While people may say that empowered employees can make autonomous decisions, he added, this is only true if they can act consistently individually, and as a group.

Kelly McCarthy, president at Genesis Integration in Edmonton, AB, Canada, believes it all comes down to hiring right—which means that company leaders must be clear with themselves on what their values are, as well as the cultural makeup of the organization. “If I’ve hired someone whose values are aligned with mine and who plugs into our company’s culture, the decisions that come into their head naturally are probably very similar to the ones that I would make, or that most of the leadership in our company would make, and therefore, they are probably the right decisions for our company,” he said. If your employees are aligned with your values and culture, it’s easier to empower them.

Guzauckas noted that in order for employees to feel empowered, their managers must provide them with a clear and open communication path, guidance and latitude in decisionmaking, a comfortable atmosphere, and support anytime they act within the established guidelines—even if, ultimately, the decision they made was the wrong one. HB Group periodically holds “All-Hands” meetings during which Guzauckas presents a corporate overview of what he dubs “Client Care”. “Clients are not just the people that hire us and pay us; they are also co-workers, vendors and sub-contractors that are dependent on your actions,” he explained. “In this all-hands, we review the corporate culture, philosophy, and some communications business challenges and situations that required critical decisions.”

He emphasized that when employees base their decisions on experience and guidelines set out by the company, they receive 100-percent backing from him as their manager. “If they don’t think, or completely botch the situation, they are on the hook from not just me, but from their clients. If they don’t know what to do, they have a host of co-workers to rely upon as well as nearly constant access to me.”

McCarthy underlined that empowered employees require proper leadership— managers that are capable of framing what employees are expected to accomplish and when, as well as the tools and resources they have access to. “Then, you need to allow them to be autonomous in achieving those goals,” he said. “If you haven’t framed it properly, then empowerment is dangerous.”

Carolyn Heinze (carolynheinze@free.fr) is a freelance writer/editor.

And If They Mess Up?

No matter how skilled, talented and experienced your employees may be, there will come a day when they make the wrong decision. (Even employers make mistakes, after all.) However, for Kelly McCarthy, president of Genesis Integration, errors aren’t always the worst thing that could happen.

“Mistakes are the greatest opportunities to coach,” he said. “Nobody likes to fail, but the fact is, if you take it as an opportunity to teach people, then it’s a positive.” The trick, he added, is to make sure that an employee isn’t continually failing in the same area—which usually means that employers are dealing with a performance issue.

—C.H.