Is the key to empowerment to adopt a self-employed attitude?

One of the preoccupations in large organisations is how to encourage individuals to be more ‘self-empowered’.  In the words of one of my HR colleagues, it can become a bit of an oxymoron if employees choose not to be, whilst employers are telling them to be…

Having started on my journey of being self-employed whilst I was still ’employed’ I discovered how liberating it can be to think about the unique capabilities that I could offer, and the difference I could make to my (internal) customers.

Perhaps one way to foster more empowerment in an organisation, is to encourage all employees to think as if they were self-employed, and consider who are the customers that they are relying on for their business, and what unique value they are bringing to them.

Their managers and colleagues would then be associates or partners that they would choose to work with because of the complementary knowledge and skills that they bring.

Their annual objectives would begin from the unique value that they can bring rather than those cascaded down from senior management.

The result might be that they decide that their future lies outside of the organisation, but if they chose to stay how much more empowered they would be…

5 thoughts on “Is the key to empowerment to adopt a self-employed attitude?”

  1. Interesting thought. For some individuals this could be helpful, but I have met many situations where the opposite is true – individuals in an organisation taking decisions as if they were self-employed and not part of a team!

    1. elisabethgoodman

      Yes I agree. There are the 2 extremes – the one that I was thinking about, and the one you describe, where I suppose the individual has to ask themselves if they want to be aligned to the wider team, and if so, how they can achieve that. Thank you for your comment!

  2. elisabethgoodman

    I just picked up a copy of Stephen Covey’s “The 8th Habit – from effectiveness to greatness” from my local library yesterday, and the opening chapter gives some classic illustrations of the pain that people who are not empowered feel, and how the goal has got to be to find their ‘voice’ i.e. their unique personal significance which addresses the ‘need’ of their customers, the ‘talent’, and ‘passion’ that they can offer as individuals, in a way that sits with their ‘conscience’ of what is the right thing to do. A very eloquent description of what I’m experiencing in being self employed! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

  3. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts on your blog and this topic in particular caught my attention. As a general manager in a larger facility, we were evolving into self directed work teams as we encouraged our employees to “own” their processes. It is important to note that this was not a “planned” strategy but rather one that naturally evolved.

    It dawned on me that we do not entrust our employees to take on the responsibilities we assume they should already have. As a result they are not really fully empowered. The very same people running our machines also purchase homes and cars, manage their personal finances and investements, raise families, and make other very significant decisions accordingly – outside of the work place and without the help the company’s management.

    When I shared this thought with my management team, they agreed that we simply didn’t acknowledge what skills the employees have and use beyond our walls. I also shared this with our employees and literally apologized for not recognizing the many skills that they have.

    Over the next few months, we tapped into this skill set and truly began empowering our team. Teaching them the specific skills they need to perform and own their processes.

    Over the course of time, we restructured to eliminate the supervisor and lead-hand positions and replaced them with a production coordinator. This was more than just a title change. The coordinator was responsible for coordinating production activities between departments and for making sure the people were getting the help they needed when they needed it. The people were directing their own activities otherwise.

    We expanded our training program to show operators the “how’s and the why’s” from setting their machines to running actual production. They learned to solve problems, seek help to get them resolved, and shared their findings with the rest of the team.

    The greatest sense of ownership and true empowerment was evidenced by their great sense of pride. This really started when we began to share our knowledge and began to entrust them with it.

    When someone makes an investement to teach and learn, they will inherently have a greater sense of ownership. Just try to take it away from them – this is “my machine”.

    Thanks for reading.

    1. elisabethgoodman

      This is a very inspiring and informative case study. Thank you so much for sharing it, and also for your interest in my blogs. I’d like to continue this discussion with you offline and will look up your details to get in touch.

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