Category Archives: workplace training

Empower people and unlock productivity

Empowering people is such a key to unlocking productivity, yet so few do it well. Bill George of Harvard asks the question for Huffington Post.Rowing eights

 “Where is the spiritual value in rowing? It is in losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew.” — George Yeoman Pocock, boat builder, 1936 Olympic gold medal winner

Stepping into a Zappos Call Center is like walking into a circus. Phones ring, voices rise, and laughter bounces around the room. If you closed your eyes, you’d think you’d entered a loud family reunion, not a billion dollar company.

Zappos employees work in a fiercely proud culture. Only 16 years after founding Zappos, CEO Tony Hsieh has made the online shoe-retailer into one of best places to work in the world. Zappos employees not only love their work, they care deeply about others in the community.

How did Hsieh do it? He did it by empowering his employees to lead. In Eyewitness to Power, David Gergen writes, “At the heart of leadership is the leader’s relationship with followers. People will entrust their hopes and dreams to another person only if they think the other is a reliable vessel.”

There was a time when leaders thought their role was to exert power over others. No longer, today’s best leaders — people like Ford’s Alan Mulally, General Motors’ Mary Barra, and Google’s Larry Page — recognize their leadership is most effective when they empower others to step up and lead. That’s exactly what the new generation of Gen X and Millennials expect from their leaders, and they respond with great performance.

Tony Hsieh focuses on relationships first and business second. In good times and bad, Hsieh’s communications are authentic, funny, and informal. He speaks directly and personally to his colleagues. As Hsieh says, “if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff…will just happen naturally.”

Hsieh reflects traits of an “empowering leader.” These leaders have discovered that helping people find purpose delivers superior results than forcing subordinates to be loyal followers. By giving others the latitude to lead, they expand their own potential impact.

So, how can you empower others? In Discover Your True North, I profile five things great leaders do.

  1. Treat Others as Equals: We respect people who treat us as equals. Warren Buffett, for example, gives equal attention to every person he meets. He has the same sandwich and Cherry Coke combination with a group of wide-eyed students as he does with his close friend Bill Gates. Buffett does not rely upon his image to make people feel he is important or powerful. He genuinely respects others, and they respect him as much for those qualities as for his investment prowess. By being authentic in his interactions, Buffett empowers people to lead in their own authentic way.
  2. Listen Actively: We are grateful when people genuinely listen to us. Active listening is one of the most important abilities of empowering leaders, because people sense such individuals are genuinely interested in them and not just trying to get something. The leadership scholar Warren Bennis was an example of a world-class listener. He patiently listened as you explained your ideas and then thoughtfully contributed astute observations that came from a deep well of wisdom and experience.
  3. Learn from People: We feel respected when others believe they can learn from us or ask for our advice. The best advice I ever got about teaching came from my Harvard Business School (HBS) colleague Paul Marshall, who was one of HBS’s greatest teachers. He told me, “Bill, don’t ever set foot in an HBS classroom unless you genuinely want to learn from the students.” I have taken his advice into every class I have taught for the past 12 years, telling MBA students and executives, “I feel certain I will learn a lot more from you than you do from me.” The students find that hard to believe at first, but they soon see how their feedback helps me understand how today’s leaders and MBA students think.
  4. Share Life Stories: When leaders are willing to be open and share their personal stories and vulnerabilities, people feel empowered to share their own stories and uncertainties in return. On Thanksgiving eve in 1996, I sent an e-mail to all Medtronic employees, expressing my gratitude for the support Penny and I received following her ordeal with breast cancer and chemotherapy. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who spontaneously shared their stories with us.
  5. Align around the Mission: The most empowering condition of all is when the entire organization aligns with its mission, and people’s passions and purpose synchronize with each other. It is not easy to get to this position, especially if the organization has a significant number of cynics or disgruntled people. Nonetheless, it is worth whatever effort it takes to create an aligned environment, including removal of those who don’t support the mission.

Leaders of every organization have an important responsibility to articulate how their company contributes to humankind. At Medtronic, our mission was to restore people to full health and wellness. At Disney, it’s to make people happy. Even at the most “boring” business-to-business company, the business can play a powerful role in improving the lives of its stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, and community.

With leadership comes responsibility. As Clayton Christensen wrote, “No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement.”

It’s time to lead authentically. You can do so by focusing on empowering others.

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1. Offering No Reward System Or Praise For Employees

Worthy employees follow orders and work hard every single day. Nothing will demotivate them more than when their good work is not recognized or rewarded. Leaders must recognize the effort employees put into their work and show appropriate appreciation. A reward system not only improves the morale and loyalty but also the performance and productivity of team members.

2. Punishing Employees On Good Performance

The biggest mistake any leader can make is using the guise of promotion or advancement to increase an employees work load without offering any financial compensation. This is not the right way to treat your most loyal and productive employees.  As well, a good leader will address the longer hours or excess workload and help their employees manage it better

3. Lacking In Communication

Stay up-to-date with all the latest information and developments. Learn the skill of communication, and be the first to inform your team members regarding things that may help them improve and perform better.

4. Becoming Too Much Of A Friend

Employees desire to have leaders that they get along well with, but being too friendly may put a leader in an awkward position when it comes to taking tough decisions. Do not allow people to take advantage of how nice you are to them. Maintain a good balance between being their boss and their friend.

5. Not Embracing  Change

Another mistake is to think that you can control how all things happen in the organization. Sometimes it is beyond anybody’s control to stop a change. A leader needs to go with the flow in such situations, and use the change to the company’s best advantage.

6. Making Hasty Decisions With Recruitment

When you need more manpower to handle a huge workload, it is still essential, you carefully manage staff selection. Better to employ temporary staff to cope with the immediate problem until you have assessed long term personnel requirements. It is costly to employ and train full time staff members.  Will they be an asset to the company and a good fit with the existing team? Take the time needed to select a candidate that has the best qualifications for the position and right temperament for your organization.

7. Not Being Clear Regarding the Organization’s Goals

Job descriptions must be precise. Employees must know their job function and to whom they are responsible for their work output. They need to feel part of the team and know the company’s mission and goals. Regular work reviews are mandatory at which good work is commended but also unsatisfactory work addressed.

8. Copying Others Instead Of Being Original

Leaders need to be authentic. Don’t try to copy others. Sure adopt good techniques and strategies you have observed others use but adapt them to your unique business situation. Learn from others but find your unique voice.
“A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done.” – Ralph Lauren.


Global Marketplace Exchange

I attended a three day Global Marketplace Exchange Conference (GME) in Melbourne last week. About 160 people were in attendance, all with a passion to see God’s plan for nations, in particular Australia, realized. In attendance were business, civic and professional leaders along with Pastors, Ministers and Christian Organisation leaders.
GME is to be a platform to promote the Kingdom of God influence throughout the domains of the marketplace. It was a first in bringing Church and Marketplace people together for this purpose. Check out the website
Conference objectives included:
1. Formation of relationships in the marketplace from different backgrounds and traditions.
2. Multiply influence through cooperation, convergence and multiplication through synergy.
3. Mentoring of emerging leaders.
4. Exchanging Kingdom insights.
5. Incubating Kingdom objectives in the domains.
6. Cross fertilization of ideas and sharing of experiences and success stories.
7. Discovering ministries and sharing resources.
8. Encouraging referrals
9. Develop training and equipping opportunities to take the Great Commission into the marketplace.
An area of Church ministry that is of critical importance to the marketplace is the training and equipping of the saints to serve Jesus well in their daily occupations. Of particular importance is the discipling of young people from school and campus to the workforce. In this regard the training materials produced by the International Christian Chamber of Commerce are exemplary particularly the Transformed Working Life Series.

If any business or church leaders are interested in putting on a Build a Kingdom Business training seminar or learning more about the ICCC training resources then please contact me by email at