Back to Blog Posts
Back to Blog Posts

8 Ways to Create an Empowered Workforce

by John Zettler

August 11, 2015

Last week, my wife and I were on a family vacation in Nova Scotia. One night at the campfire with my brother, his wife, my parents, my wife and myself, we all got into an interesting conversation about our jobs. The conversation morphed into a discussion about what we each liked and disliked about our jobs and the companies we work for.

Campfire Where we ended up was in a deep discussion on a topic that many Leaders struggle with each and every day: How do I motivate and empower my employees to get the most out of them?

If you’re like me and consider this to be an important topic within your organization, I encourage you to take a critical look at the 8 questions below and ask yourself how your organization stacks up.

Now, I appreciate that this is a small sample size of people in the conversation, but an extremely diverse group none the less and very consistent with my own experience – President of a distribution company, teacher, Consulting Senior Manager of a large technology company, 2 Retirees and of course, myself.


1. How much autonomy do you give employees to make decisions?

During our conversation, my wife described what she likes most about her job is the ability to make decisions and the autonomy to come up with the best (and most efficient) way to get the job done. She described that her Leaders and clients provide tasks and work to do but that they then trust that she is professional and experienced enough to come up with the best way to get the work done.

As a Leader, your role is to give clear definition around what you expect. Be clear on what you need to get done, by when, and what the mechanism is to communicate if they can’t keep their commitment. Then, provide the employees the support they require to be successful and then get out of their way.

2. How rigid is your organization?

Does your organization have policies or procedures that inhibit people’s ability to make good decisions? Do they assume the worst in people? Do they take away their ability to have any control of the situation?

My experience suggests that we create 90% of policies and procedures to manage the 5% of people who actually might abuse them. Why not manage the 5% of people and allow the other 95% of people to make good decisions for the company.

For example, I was recently talking to someone who had a job sharing arrangement at their company. In essence, they worked 3 days a week and a co-worker did the other 2 days. They had been making decisions that allowed both of them to cover for the other providing more flexibility to go on vacation, attend their children’s sporting events, etc. Human Resources found out and stopped them from doing this any longer citing that the policy requires them to work their agreed upon days and did not allow them to stray. Does that make good business sense? I think not.

3. How safe is it for people to bring ideas forward?

If you immediately shoot down ideas that your employees bring forward, it’s a sure fire way to ensure they won’t do it again.

As Leaders within your organization, you need to embrace ideas that your employees bring forward, in fact, we encourage that you help facilitate “Innovation” discussions to bring out ideas.

4. How openly does communication flow?

You may consider that you do a good job at this in your organization, but I ask you to ponder this question. Does communication only flow top down? If you answered yes to this, it’s likely that your employees don’t feel like they have a forum to bring ideas forward and may not feel safe in doing so.

Instead, you need to provide opportunities for employees to bring their thoughts, ideas and feelings forward without the fear of retribution. If we’re truly committed to creating a more engaged workforce then we need to also be committed to helping people understand how their input is valued.

5. Is it safe to make a mistake at your organization?

1 in 3 people suffer from the fear of negative consequence. That is to say, they think that if they make a mistake in doing their job they could be fired, will certainly be reprimanded, and anything in between.

We need to make it OK for employees to try new things and new ways of doing things – as long as it doesn’t put the company in danger. When we do this it will allow employees to build their confidence, stop relying on Leaders to make all of the decisions for them, and empower them to be innovative in coming up with ideas on how to do their job better.

6. Do you have an accountability structure?

Employees want to know what they are supposed to be doing and how to know if they’re doing it well. As Leaders you need to establish goals and objectives with your employees and then have measures in place to hold them accountable.

With that said, as a Leader the most important part of accountability is consistency. If your employees “perceive” that you’re not being consistent in holding everyone accountable to the same standard, they won’t buy-in.

7. Do you have an environment of honest and sincere appreciation?

How often do you provide honest and sincere appreciation for the work your employees do? I know, you’re reading this and saying in your head “I pay them to do their job, why do I need to give thanks and appreciation?”

This has nothing to do with the financial component that you provide. To empower your employees they need to feel like Leadership cares about them and appreciates the work they do. The easiest solution is to say “thanks” more often. Beyond that, come up with other ways to appreciate the work employees do. And remember that while you’re doing this, people can see right through you if it’s insincere, so make sure you mean what you say.

8. Do you have micromanagers in your organization?

Constantly looking over the shoulders of your employees, stepping in when it’s not necessary, and doing the work yourself because it’s “just faster than teaching them”, sends a message that you don’t trust their experience and abilities.

Your job as a Leader is to support and develop employees. Micromanaging does the opposite and can impact their confidence and growth.

I certainly don’t think that Leaders have poor intentions when it comes to leading their employees, and I’m not suggesting that you’re a bad Leader if you were surprised by how you answered these questions. Often Leaders simply lack the formal training and/or time to focus on creating Empowered Employees.

Dale Carnegie has been helping People and Leaders for over 100 years and we can help you achieve the results you desire. Call us today to discuss which solution will best support your success.
Best Success!

John Zettler, Director, Talent Strategy
& Development, Dale Carnegie Training®
Contact me at 905-826-7300 x 235 or jzettler@dalecarnegie.ca


We are pleased to welcome John Zettler to the Dale Carnegie team as Director, Talent Strategy & Development.

“John’s commitment and passion to the growth and development of individuals, teams and organizations is evident,” says Kevin Crone, President and Managing Partner, Dale Carnegie Business Group. “His engaging and collaborative approach along with his strong business acumen and focus on results make him a great fit for our team. We are thrilled he has decided to join us.”

Read more.

John Zettler brings almost 20 years of human resource experience to the challenge of better leadership we all share. He has invested his skills and energies and debated leadership with some of our country’s best leaders. Through this, he has refined a style of management that focuses on leadership conviction, authenticity and caring as the cornerstones of a more nuanced set of management skills we can all benefit from.

Instead of balance in our life, he challenges us to a new style of work life blending that both gives us:

  1. The rush of seeing our people grow and prosper in a company that truly cares about them and their dreams.
  2. The time and focus to also contribute the same level of passion to the needs of our families.

To hear the insights we captured in three minutes of his own words, click here.





Best Practices in Talent Development are rapidly evolving and becoming increasingly critical to bottom line performance. If you would like to benchmark your performance in this area, and learn the tools and insights of Canada’s top talent development practitioners, please sign up for our Bi-monthly newsletter on Accelerating Talent Development.

Simply click here  and join the effort.

Assist this project by recommending a great leader or talent developer you know.

ATD_Logo_196_85Take a look at our previous Accelerated Talent Development Newsletters!

Dale Carnegie Resources
dynamic_engagement_icon“Disengaged employees are 2.5 times more likely than engaged employees to change jobs for as little as a 5% pay increase employee-engagement-strategies”

Today, engaged employees are more important than ever. Dale Carnegie Training’s White Paper The Dynamics of Employee Engagement will reveal the variables that play a significant role in helping you develop your employee engagement strategies.

Identify and understand the dynamics that govern your workplace, then develop employee engagement strategies. Download the Free White Paper: The Dynamics of Employee Engagement

how_leaders_grow_smallProfessional growth doesn’t just happen. It has to be: allowed, inspired, nurtured and rewarded. How much time and effort are we putting in as leaders to create this environment?

Learn more by downloading, “How Leaders Grow Today“.

Find out about local meetings and resources to help you succeed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *