Empower Your Employees
Through their actions, your sales associates represent you. Empower them to embody your ideals, judgment and philosophy
Regardless of your marketing campaign, your employees are living, breathing billboards for your store. As a result of their direct or indirect words and actions, your business will receive good, bad or neutral word of mouth. The key to preventing bad and neutral comments and harnessing the positive ones is to empower employees so they become mini-marketers for your company and its vision.
When you empower employees, you give them the message their contribution is important. That feeling of being part of something larger motivates all people. The degree to which your employees can identify their contribution to your company is the degree to which theyll speak and act positively about it. Thats why you want to empower them to make decisions, take action and embrace a unified entrepreneurial spirit.
What Is Empowerment?
Empowerment is more than simply telling people what they can and cant do. Its a process that builds trust between the employee and the company.
When employees are empowered, they know precisely how much latitude they have in any situation. When they reach the limit of their authority, they know how to find additional information or to make suggestions.
Empowered employees are not afraid to think outside the box or offer ideas because they know they have managements support and that senior executives want their input.
Create an Empowered Culture
Empowerment is a culture change you, as a manager, need to instill. In most companies, employees expect managers to tell them what to do in every situation. Deep in their hearts, however, employees want more responsibility and to make a meaningful contribution.
To encourage the process, stop making decisions for them all the time. Turn to a questioning style of management. Ask employees what they think they should do in a situation and then listen to their answers. If their answers arent well-thought-out, ask more detailed questions to prompt further thinking. Dont jump in with the solution.
For example, if youre uncertain how to price a new product or what styles to stock, ask your employees. Customers tell salespeople what they want and need. Based on the information your employees relay, you can determine the best price to charge or discover an untapped niche, a new product idea or a better service offering.
If their initial responses to your question dont make sense, ask them to think in the context of different scenarios, such as What kinds of customers do you think will buy these earrings? If they say younger women, ask what price (within limits) this demographic can afford. As they refine their initial ideas, be open to what they say. In as many situations as possible, use their input in your final decision.
Reward Empowered Action
Youll know your employees are empowered when their daily actions and words put your company in a positive light. An example of an empowered employee is the receptionist at the Raleigh, NC, Chamber of Commerce who researched the answer to a visitors question and then e-mailed him the answer the following day. She could have simply responded to his question with I dont know, but her organization empowered her to go beyond the customary information sources.
In a grocery store, an empowered employee hears a customers requests for a particular product and tells the manager, who in turn asks the regional buyer to order that product for the store.
In a restaurant, an empowered waitress listens to a customers complaint about the too-cool temperature. The waitress talks to the manager and communicates her findings to the customer (the temperature cant be adjusted). The customer ultimately leaves the restaurant satisfied the waitress acted on her concerns.
In each of these examples, the empowered employees gave customers positive impressions of the company without even knowing it. They became more than just a receptionist, a clerk or a waitress. Be sure to recognize your employees when they make decisions that burnish your brand name. Rewarding such behavior is likely to keep it going.
by Linda Keefe
Linda Keefe is CEO and cofounder of Shared Results International, a consulting and training company that transforms people through the power of SharedKnowledge. She conducts workshops and seminars on the SharedKnowledge concept, communications and using technology effectively for major corporations, nonprofit organizations and private institutions. Contact her at (888) 689-8077 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sharedresults.com.