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How Empowerment Requires Fundamental Change

The reason empowerment is so challenging is that we must not only change the way we organize and perform work, but we must also fundamentally change our traditional beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions about work. Such fundamental change is more accurately defined as personal and organizational transformation.

Empowerment requires transformation of our fundamental beliefs about:

  1. Personal responsibility and accountability
  2. Performance
  3. Self-motivated continuous learning
  4. Value-added employment
  5. Self-management
  6. Teamwork
  7. Change
  8. Leadership

Here is how our attitudes will have to change in order for empowerment to work:

  1. Personal Responsibility and Accountability In order for expanded responsible delegation to occur, employees will have to assume greater charge of their work tasks. They will have to plan with greater care and knowledge, anticipate pitfalls, and design solutions in advance. In the end, personal accountability means ownership of the results—successful and unsuccessful—without any reasons or excuses. This attitude provides the basis for new learning when the results are unsuccessful.
  2. Performance Empowerment will force us to encounter and move beyond self-imposed limitations about our capabilities to perform. The greatest challenge we face in expanding our performance is not in learning new skills, but in changing our strongly held beliefs about what we should or should not be required to do in this new high-involvement environment. What we will have to learn and accept is that we should change in whatever way necessary (within moral and ethical bounds) to exceed our customers' expectations—both internal and external.
  3. Self-Motivated Continuous Learning In the present knowledge-based era, continuous learning is a necessity. Without continuous learning, an employee jeopardizes her or his value to an organization. In high-involvement organizations, greater personal responsibility means the individual is self-motivated to acquire new learning by being in constant contact with the continuously changing needs of customers.
  4. Value-Added Employment This requirement principally involves a shift in mindset from entitlement to believing that "my employment is based upon the continuing value I bring to internal or external customers. In essence, I do not work for a company, I work for a customer. I have the highest probability for secure employment when I exceed my identified customer's expectations. This mode of thinking allows me to accurately define value-added work."
  5. Self-Management A natural consequence of expanded delegation with less oversight is the necessity for each employee to assume management responsibilities previously performed by his or her manager. It is important to realize that management does not disappear; it is simply passed on to the employee. A crucial aspect of this new responsibility is the ability to organize and prioritize one's work independently. In the initial stages, coaching and mentoring may be necessary.
  6. Teamwork The shift from focus on self to group is probably the most difficult of all for many Western-oriented individuals—those primarily motivated by individual self-interest. It involves an expanded perspective to authentically value and practice teamwork. It requires the realization that business competitive-ness and success will be a balance of synergistic group interdependence and the full expression of individual excellence.
  7. Change This element principally involves adopting a mindset that rapid change is a way of life. What appears to be chaos and confusion, because so many things are happening simultaneously, is the new norm. It is the acceptance of a mindset that an employee's job is a continuously changing function of what internal and external customers want and need. This change is created by unpredictable events referred to as chaos. The key here is to relinquish the necessity for personal control or security.
  8. Leadership Empowering leadership involves the continual process of creating expanded competence and giving away responsibility. It is a shift from an indivi-dually led mindset to a participative leadership mindset. This means that leadership exists at every level of an organization. The focus is on establishing a high standard of excellence and inspiring employees to self-enroll in committing to achieve that level of performance.

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