Revisiting Empowerment

13 Nov

Diane Tracy’s excellent book, 10 Steps to Empowerment: A Common-sense Guide to Managing People, was the book of 90s management trends. Diane had quite a few good ideas, but as you read later books on management techniques, you discover that many of her ideas were carried too far by the organizational leaders of the day.

Empowering employees to do their jobs is very important. Nowadays, managers are faced with more direct reports than ever. And the downsizing trend doesn’t seem to be halting. Chrysler just announced plans to slash thousands of jobs. I think I heard that managers manage 30 direct reports, compared to 5 twenty years ago. I believe that this trend will continue, and in another 10 years or so, we’ll manage an average of 40-50 direct reports.

Managers simply don’t have the time that they are used to having “back in the day.” This means that delegation becomes so important in today’s workforce. You must properly train employees to do their jobs right without you hanging over their heads.

What that means for the fast food manager is that Diane’s principles should become the basis for how you run your shift.  Your employees should be empowered to take care of customers in the way that they see fit–provided it fits with the general strategy of the company.

For example, the service mark of the franchisee that I work for is “People Pleasing People.”  Before I empower my employees, I must ensure that they understand what that slogan means.  We are people who desire to please other people.  Within the confines of good sense, I want my customers to leave pleased with the service that they received.

What do I mean by good sense?  Well, if a customer complains about a sandwich that has onions on it, replacing the sandwich with a smile and an apology is what I’m looking for.  Replacing the sandwich, giving them two free small sandwiches and a complimentary five dollar gift card just defies good sense.

So that leaves us with defining empowerment based upon Diane’s 10 steps, and then applying each step to the fast food environment.  The 10 steps of empowerment are:

  1. Tell people what their responsibilities are
  2. Give them authority equal to the responsibilities assigned to them
  3. Set standards of excellence
  4. Provide them with training that will enable them to meet the standards
  5. Give them knowledge and information
  6. Provide them with feedback on their performance
  7. Recognize them for their achievements
  8. Trust them
  9. Give them permission to fail
  10. Treat them with dignity and respect

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting my thoughts in turn on each of these 10 steps.  The challenge in fast food, which is traditionally autocratic, how do you move toward the democratic end of the spectrum without giving up your control?  That will be the underlying question as I visit each step.

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