Creating a Culture That Empowers People

A team of engaged employees

In my last blog post, I shared my personal bias that most employees want to succeed. They want to contribute and make a difference. Furthermore, it’s our job as leaders to make this possible by creating a culture which empowers people; a culture in which everyone wants to give their best. Yet so often this does not happen.

Let me share an example from my consulting experience.

I was sitting in the cafeteria of a respected manufacturing company one day having an informal chat with an employee by the name of Washington. I wanted some insight into the work climate and attitudes of people and so I asked, “Washington, how productive is the average employee? In other words, how much do they work up to their capability on an average day?”

He paused, “Most people put out 50 or 60%.”

“Whoa.” I said. “So that means that, if people were truly committed, they could almost double their average daily production?”

“Yes,” came back his reply. “Lots of workers do the minimum possible. They just get by.”

Grim Statistics

Unfortunately, research supports Washington’s observations. Yankelovich and Immerwahr have reported that only 23% of employees say they work at their full potential. Forty-four percent report that they only work hard enough to keep their jobs. And 75% say they could be significantly more effective in their jobs.

And you may be familiar with the Gallup organization which has conducted massive surveys on employee engagement each year since 2000. Although the numbers are rising in the US,  on average over the last 20 years:

  • 30% of employees are engaged in their work.
  • 53% of employees are disengaged, meaning that they come to work to collect a paycheck but lack commitment.
  • 17% are actively disengaged meaning that they may say and do things that are actually harmful to the business. They often create a toxic environment for other employees.

Empowering People

Employee engagement is the emotional investment employees make in their organizations. It has to do with passion, involvement and commitment they bring to their work. Engaged employees care about their work and they care about their team or organization. They want to do their best and make a difference to their organizations and the customers they serve.

The kind of commitment that empowers people is all about leadership.

For years, Preston Pond and I (co-founders of the Center for Organizational Design) framed our mission as creating high performance companies which we defined as those in which each person was a contributing partner in the business. Our purpose was to teach organization leaders how to create a culture of empowered and committed employees.

We learned that although most leaders give lip service to the importance of their people, it takes a special and dedicated commitment to make it happen. Furthermore, those leaders who do so will build companies that significantly outperform those that do not.

Empowering People in Action

My friend Washington was fortunate to work for one of these companies. Carmine Lencsak was Director of Northeast Manufacturing for a well-known manufacturing company. He understood the importance of empowering people. He and his team were able to create a high-performance culture that achieved outstanding business results and received the highest quality award from the state of New Jersey. In fact, they became a destination for other leaders and teams who wanted to understand best practices in high performance and employee engagement.

Creating this kind of culture is not based on platitudes, gimmicks, and superficial initiatives. The belief in people was bone-deep in Carmine. He believed in the value of every employee. He and his team were able to create a great culture because they saw people as more than tools of management or costs on a ledger sheet. By believing in them he created something special. He empowered people and they stepped up.

Learn More

There are lots of practices to make this happen. In fact, I’m launching a new course entitled “Leadership to Engage Hearts and Minds: Tools to Improve Your Team Management and Build Employee Engagement.” The course is now with my final production editor and should be ready to launch within a few weeks. I’m also going to give away some free coupons to anyone who would like to be a course reviewer. Just let me know in a comment or email.

And please share your experience in business, good and bad. What is it like working for a company that does not value their employees? What is it like working for a company that does value their employees? I’d love to hear your personal experiences.


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

2 responses to “Creating a Culture That Empowers People”

  1. Nicolas Perez says:

    Yes Roger I wouldn’t mind being a course reviewer, I have taken one of your classes on Listening at Udemy and have read several of your publications. I manage a team of 120 people and have found your insights very helpful.

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