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“Empower” to the People

May 18, 2009

Someone asked me recently about my management style and I told them that I believe in empowerment.  The puzzled look that was returned made me realize that empowerment doesn’t usually come to mind when thinking of classic management styles.  The only way to be sure you’re capturing all of the unique talents and abilities of your people is to empower them to freely make decisions, take actions and to provide input.

The online retailer Zappos is so confident in its customer service reps that they don’t provide any scripts, but instead rely on the unique abilities of each employee to handle each situation in their own way.   When at a restaurant, I can tell when the servers have been empowered by management and when they haven’t, it is evident in their behaviors and level of confidence, and most importantly in their ability to satisfy the customer.   Stew Leonard runs a very successful grocery chain on the East Coast and one of his secrets is listen to the customer.  He empowers his customers to act much like a board of directors, making decisions that Stew immediately executes in his stores.  So if you’re looking for a  employee that just follows orders or a customer who doesn’t speak up, you may want to invest in an army of robots.  I believe that there’s “gold in them there brains” and I intend to tap every ounce!

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