In order for organizations to remain adaptable to customer needs, front-line employees must be given more authority and flexibility to make on-the-spot decisions. Research in the area of empowerment has revealed that increased empowerment produces greater organisational success factors. These factors include employee contribution, innovation, organizational commitment, expands latent talents, increases capacity to accept change, and increases employee retention. These benefits are all necessary traits for improving organisational success.
Having discussed some benefits and hence the desirability for greater empowerment let’s investigate what we mean by the term ‘empowerment’. There seems to be a plethora of definitions but for me the best way to discuss empowerment is to break it up into two dimensions. Hence, empowerment can be summed up by looking at both its internal and external aspects. The technical definitions that describes these two aspects are psychological empowerment (internal) and leader-empowering behaviours (external).
Psychological empowerment is made up of four facets, a sense of real meaning in one’s work, a sense of making an impact through the contribution you make at work, feeling competent about your capacity to do your work, and a sense you have freedom to make choices that effect your work. Research indicates that not only do psychologically empowered employees perceive themselves as more effective, increasing their confidence, but also that employees with whom they work assess them as more effective.
Leader-empowering behaviours exhibited by leaders to empower those whom they lead have been defined by six specific activities. They are: delegation, accountability, self-determined decision-making, information sharing, training for greater competency, and coaching for innovation. Furthermore a connection has been shown between these six behaviours being exercised by leaders and their subordinates increasing in the four facets of psychological empowerment. Leaders who exhibited these six traits, as determined by their subordinates, created a dynamic which allowed for their subordinates to feel more empowered (psychological empowerment).
Having defined empowerment and its various aspects and elements, how does one go about creating increased empowerment? One research project has revealed that executive coaching which specifically worked on enabling leaders to use coaching skills in their leadership, saw an increase in their leader-empowering behaviours and an increase in psychological empowerment within both the leaders and their subordinates. The executive coaching that was exercised set out only to equip leaders in the use of executive coaching skills. A model was used which enabled leaders to coach their staff using a contracted relationship, conduct a gap analysis, develop and action plan to fill the gap, resource them for success and gain ongoing feedback. So how does one implement an empowering process? Simple, a quality coaching process is an effective method for empowering leaders to not only feel empowered (psychological empowerment) but to be able to empower others in their work. A good coaching process clarifies the way forward, holds people accountable, enables them to take responsibility for their own direction, opens up the way for greater communication, increases competency, and expands innovative opportunities.