Tag Archives: empowerment

Respect at work


Respect at workRespect is in many organisations a core value, but how can you explain something this essential to you colleagues? Respect is hard to explain because we are used to be treated with respect. My experience at a construction site to taught me that respect at work starts with treating each other as equals, open communication and sharing information. This in order that your colleagues can think along and take initiative. You steer on results and now the ‘how’.

Respect is something many organisations have in their core values, but what does it actually mean? Many times I have tried to find the correct formulation and an example that suits, but we were always stuck after the “for getting respect, you first need to give respect” tagline.

Respect is hard to explain because we are used to be treated with respect. It was only after doing something completely else, that I experienced what it was to be treated without respect. That’s why it’s hard to explain respect from my current employment because I have almost always been treated with respect. But sometimes I come in a completely other environment. One where I don’t have prior knowledge or training. One where I don’t have acquired experience in the field. It is a construction site. At my home or at a site where friends or family are building or redecorating their house.

On a construction site, I’m a newbie. The palms of my hands don’t lie: I’m used to desk work. On a construction site I have the knowledge of a newbie and I act as a newbie. Surrounded by experienced experts I do my best to help and assist. In some cases I’m treated with respect, in other cases I’m not.

Some examples of being treated without respect:

  • When I don’t do my work good enough, work is taken out of my hands and done by the lead himself.
  • I cannot understand the professional because he uses jargon I don’t know.
  • When I don’t know something, the professional acts as if it’s common knowledge and I’m missing out.
  • Knowledge and information is only shared if really needed and only at the time needed.
  • The professional is telling me in every detail exactly what to do instead of allowing me to fill in my work myself.
  • I’m only told the next step in line and don’t know how the end result should look like. This makes it impossible to think along, find solutions and take initiative.

To summarize the above, the other party is not treating me as an equal. I’m happy to admit that all of this didn’t occur on one occasion, but is mere a summary of everything I experienced during the years. I must also admit that in some cases I was ready to heat my head against the wall.

So how should you treat your colleagues with respect?

  • Treat them as an equal. (this is were our first punch line “give respect to receive” dissolved)
  • Keep communication open and share information.
  • Offer the opportunity to think along.
  • Offer the space to take initiative.
  • Steer on output (results) and not on input (the ‘how’).
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Empowerment rocks!


Foo Fighters drummer - Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters drummer – Taylor Hawkins

Six empowerment lessons from the rock industry by looking at the history of the Foo Fighters.

The Foo Fighters are a rock band that got popular in the nineties, made it through the two-thousands and still are popular in the two thousand and tens. During the years the setting of the band changed and a lot has to do with how the lead singer, Dave Grohl, changed his leadership style.

Dave Grohl came free from the popular band Nirvana after dissolution after the tragic suicide of lead singer, Kurt Cobain. In Nirvana, Dave was as drummer responsible for the heart beat of the band. But Dave had more talents than only drumming: he also could play the guitar and bass. He even could sing very well! After some solo (re)work, he started the Foo Fighters band with him as lead singer.

In the first set-up with the band, the drummer was William Goldsmith. When recording the album “The Colour and the Shape” in 1997, William was responsible for all drum parties. Dave Grohl had set a high ambition level and wanted only the best for the new CD. Because of his drumming experience in Nirvana, he knew very well how to play the drums and was not satisfied with the current recordings of William. When William was away for a while, Dave picked up his old drum sticks and redid all the drum parties of the CD in the way that he wanted them to sound. When William came back and was notified of this, he was very disappointed. Not very long after this event William decided to quit the band.

Dave made a typical leadership error when delegating which is taking back/over the work that was delegated and doing it himself. Because it was better, faster, tighter, etc. Instead of discussing the (mediocre) quality of the recordings and having supported William, Dave chose the shortest path and took the delegated work back.

Drummer William was replaced with Taylor Hawkins, which still is the drummer of the Foo Fighters, and we can see that Dave learned a valuable lesson. He now lets the drummer, Taylor, free to use his creativity and imagination when recording the drum parties. They have established a real cooperative relationship which even can be seen during the live performances of the band: the drummer (and also the heart of the band) is in sync with the lead singer. During their performance at Pukkelpop 2012 I was really impressed by how attuned they were to each other.

Six tips for bringing empowerment to your work floor

  1. Discuss what empowerment means to you and your team.
  2. Learn to really delegate.
    1. Explain the “why” and the “what”.
    2. Set criteria for the output and steer on these criteria.
    3. Do not get involved in the way works needs to be done. Leave the “how” for the delegee.
  3. Create a feedback loop.
    1. Give feedback on results.
    2. Discuss the problems, not the person.
    3. Discuss about facts, not assumptions or personal interpretations.
  4. Start with small assignments, give bigger ones when successful.
  5. Delegating assignments means also delegating the benefits that belong with it.
  6. Give recognition to your employees.

Additional reading

Foo Fighers @ Wikipedia

Top 10 Principles of Employee Empowerment

Top 7 Self Empowerment Tips

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Pay it forward with appreciative inquiry


Yesterday the second theme evening of the new company strategy discussed Empowerment.
Speakers were Dr. Ronald Fry and Wim Croonen of Gemzyne Geel.

Empowerment is kind of a buzz word used for some years, so it deserved some extra attention to the “how” and “why” of it.

The main topic was appreciative inquiry, which is, in short, focusing and leveraging the good items to great, instead of only focusing on the norm and the gap between your performance. We humans tend to focus more on the negative, the gap to, then the positive and this has negative effects on the company, the culture, the employees and the results. When applying principles of appreciative inquiry Dr. Fry proved positive effects in organizations, measurable in earnings before taxes and retention rates.

Dr. Ronald Fry applied his own theory in practice by sharing success stories of organizations like the US Navy, British Airways and the OSHA mill.
The story about the OSHA mill that Ronald Fry told, was eye opening for me.
It all came back on a very simple principle: to talk about it [security in this case] in a positive way.

They applied the principle used in the movie Pay It Forward, where a child tries to improve the world with one simple rule:

If somebody does a good deed you, you have to do it for three other people.
In no time the world starts improving.

Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward

At OSHA they did the same: they raised three questions in a positive way about security:

  • What is your positive experience with security?
  • What is your dream image of security?
  • If no constraints, what are the three things you would change about security?

(not sure about the exact phrasing)

These questions spread all over the company and even before the main ideas were captured and procedures were worked out, the positive effect was already showing in the number of accidents per month.

This principle is easy to translate to spreading a new strategy.

Start with describing your positive experience with the new strategy and expected behavior, and the person that receives it, pays it forward to three other colleagues.
The positive message will spread like fire!

So, why wait?

My positive experience with empowerment is that as Lean Coaches we are engaged to get the job done. Our
performance is evaluated by results and measured by the targets we’ve set for ourselves and some with our team.

We have autonomy for finding out the how and when to do it. To evaluate our work, we ask our customers (our coachees) and team colleagues for feedback.

This is one of the things that keeps me coming back to my work every morning 🙂

Please share: What is your positive experience with empowerment?

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