Empowered or Powerless?

If you’ve read about Zappo’s, then no doubt you’ve heard of the incredible support Tony Hsieh provided employees to ensure they met each and every customer’s needs, regardless of how far fetched the need may seem. Tony’s philosophy was that employees were in the best position to satisfy customer needs, and that doing so consistently would result in ecstatic customers. Tony sold Zappo’s to Amazon in XXX for XXX, proving that empowering employees can lead to significant financial results.

To read more about the Zappo’s story, you can pickup Tony’s book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

Despite the popularity of the Zappo’s story, building employee empowerment isn’t difficult and begins with putting employee needs and ideas first. Based on my work with clients across North America there are three critical steps I’ve found repeatedly form the basis for a culture of empowered employees:

1. Understand employee performance strengths and weaknesses. Clarity on how employees interact with and support customers will yield insights into how confident employees are in taking rapid and sometimes unorthodox action to support customer needs.

2. Reward inconsistently. Being recognized for a job well done only serves to encourage more of the same behavior. The problem however is that too many rewards programs are predictable and lack meaning. Its critical that leaders invest time in “catching employees doing something right” in order to thank and reward them for their performance. This results in often inconsistent rewards that are unpredictable and most importantly, genuine.

3. Have patience. True empowerment is about allowing employees to take action; make decisions and invest money in ways that support customers. If you consistently interject and make decisions on behalf of employees, then there is no need for them to take action on their own. Be patient and allow employees the opportunity to take action and (when safe) fail. It’s through action and failure that we learn how to become more resourceful and valuable.

So if you want to achieve significant levels of success and build a customer base that is ecstatic with your products or services, take a page from Tony’s approach and use the above ideas to build an empowered employee culture.

© Shawn Casemore 2014. All rights reserved.

 

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