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TMTOWTDI (pronounced: Tim Toady). "There's More Than One Way To Do It" - motto of the Perl programming language

Larry Walls, creator of Perl, didn't want his community of contributors bound by prescribed methods. He didn't want to "tell programmers how to program" - he just wanted "beautiful" results. While you may not be able to tell a line of code from a line of gibberish, the lesson is clear: as a leader, you need empower your people to perform. Articulate the results you need, delegate thoughtfully - and then get out of their way.

The Case for Employee Empowerment

"As we look ahead...leaders will be those who empower others." Bill Gates

Empowerment goes beyond delegation. When you delegate a task, you put the responsibility to complete it on the employees. When you empower folks, you give them responsibility - and the authority to make decisions towards successful completion.

At the same time, you don't abdicate your accountability. At the end of the day, it's still your job to ensure your people produce the results your organization needs. But how they do that? TMTOWTDI.

Fancred founder, Hossein Kash Razzaghi, explains:

"It's not about people who are good at what they do, but people I trust. I have the vision, but it's up to them to buy in and become a successful company. Trust comes into play when individual team members believe in that challenge and put their skills to meet it."

(Agreed - although, it certainly is about people who are good at what they do! Hire right, build trust, and then empower employees to help your organization grow.)

Empowered Employees: Healthy Companies

In the global war for talent, when you've secured high-potential employees, you need to hang on to them. Employee empowerment is an essential step. According to Patricia Wheeler, "bright motivated people want to have decision-making authority. They crave empowerment and will leave companies if they don't feel they are making a difference."

Meanwhile, empowered employees who stay make a significant difference. Scott Seibert, professor of management and organizations at the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business led a study on workplace empowerment initiatives. "Employees said they were more engaged in their work when empowered, that they felt like they had an influence and an impact on the business around them."

Additional benefits - for both employees and companies:

  • Higher job satisfaction.
  • Reduced stress.
  • Lower turnover.
  • Enhanced performance.
  • Increased innovation.

How to Empower Your Employees

Is TMTOWTDI when it comes to employee empowerment? Fair enough! Sure, there are various ways to accomplish it, from promoting self-improvement to encouraging safe failure.

Perl community members extended their slogan to include, "There's More Than One Way To Do It - But Sometimes Consistency Is Not A Bad Thing Either." So, there are solid steps that you can take to empower your people - and the next generation of leaders.

  1. Start a two-way dialogue - and keep the conversation going. Effective delegation is only possible when you work together. One-on-one communication is critical - and it should be frequent as well!
  2. Explain - and clarify. What is the task that you're delegating, and what outcomes do you need to see? What types of resources do they have at their disposal? What is the extent of their decision-making authority?
  3. Encourage your direct report to ask questions. And lots of them. Make sure they have an accurate understanding of the tasks, outcomes, resources, and boundaries.
  4. Remember, you're not "done." You can't hand over the task and authority, while abdicating your own. Set up a process for ongoing check-ins, feedback, "feedforward" (suggestions for the future), clarifications, and questions.

When done well, employee empowerment benefits your people and the organization as a whole. They key is recognizing that not everyone will do things as you do - and that's fine, as long as you get the results you need. If you want to grow, you need to let go of the "My Way or the Highway" mentality and empower your people to discover their own way.


Larry Hart

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