Big Traditions can still make room for positive change

Empowerment as described in my last post was talking about giving/receiving permission to feel confident or capable of completing a task and the question I raised was who gives that permission. Not to step back into that discussion too much, I wanted to take the concepts of empowering your company as a whole by empowering each individual employee. Easier said than done, I know! And this challenge is greater for bigger and older companies who need to train more employees to ingrain the empowerment mindset and most likely they also have to fight against well-established cultures that “go by the books.” Smaller and younger companies, who don’t face these same problems would, obviously, have different practices, as described in my first quality vs quantity post.

Smaller companies or groups have the advantage of being agile with implementing employee empowerment in order to keep up with the every-changing market and competition. So how are big corporations able to improve upon employee empowerment within the company’s mindset where they can still be competitive in the market? The old practice of putting up suggestion boxes or establishing improvement recommendation emails, though are ideas with good intentions, are not utilized or valued effectively to be implemented company-wide.

Motivation is emotionally driven, just like empowerment

Continuous employee engagement initiated from the bottom up (if you have a hierarchal structure) more easily sets the tone for the rest of the company when it comes to empowerment. Since the employees are already there and probably have a long-tenure, employee “buy-in” on empowerment may be difficult; heard of the metaphor on teaching an old dog new tricks? So how can you tap into motivating the masses? Well motivation is fueled by emotion, good and bad. We can logically understand a reason for change and even agree with the necessity of the change 100%, but without the emotional backing behind the change the situation will stay the same. And, unfortunately, everyone has his/her own feelings on each situation. The amount of time and effort a company would have to spend on evaluating and understanding each employee’s emotional motivation may not seem like a great investment. There are companies who have implemented that strategy, and I’m sure have found great success in it. Remember the Malden Mills? The situation where Mr. Malden paid for all of his employees salaries for two months after a holiday tragedy provided the motivation by the employees to work harder than ever to help save the plant from going into bankruptcy. Though the plant eventually had to be sold off, the emotional stirring felt by the Malden Mills’ workforce provided employees empowerment to attempt an incredible feat in order to save the company and local community.

A change can always be undone, but to deter motivation can be irreversible

In this case, it was the upper-management that initiated the change to “light the fire” of motivation rather than from the bottom-level. But, no matter where the motivation comes from within a big organization, it can lead to empowerment. I’d recommend for bigger companies to have certain individuals place into the “masses” to help drive the empowered motivation for the team as a whole. Reward the empowerment initiatives on top of that, whether they turn out to be good changes or not. Remember, you can always undo a change that doesn’t end up being the best course of action for the company, but you can’t undo deterring someone’s motivation to do their best if they’re scorned for trying to make a difference. As leaders, we need to nurture and grow the empowerment mindset to make the world a better place. Overall, though, however you decide to have your company run the changes implemented for a big corporation I’d highly recommend ready Scaling Up Excellence by Huggy Rao and Robert Sutton. Their analysis on how to make your whole organization great through incredible changes is much more thorough than my brief rant on the subject.

Let me know how you would inspire others to be motivated to make the changes in a big organization where you feel your voice may be too small to be heard.

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One comment

  1. […] a village” with enough people buying in to the vision that it allows everyone else to feel empowered enough to step up to the new standard? Is this a tipping point or a balancing point? Let me know […]


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