Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘employee participation

Managers as Facilitators of Change

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When faced with the prospect of change, the biggest fear employees will have is that of the unknown, especially if the change is perceived to threaten their jobs and personal economic security. This insecurity is often fed by rumors, as well as the impact that change has had on other companies, industries, and the economy. Fears are heightened with the widespread dissemination of information through television, newspapers, the Internet and other media outlets.

The role of the manager is to lead by being an agent and facilitator of change. This is underscored by their personal vision of the future. As agents and facilitators of change, managers must understand that they will need to handle their employees’ fears and apprehensions regarding future changes potentially affecting their jobs and personal security.

Individuals create their own “comfort zones,” or established patterns and habits they are comfortable with. Change threatens these comfort zones and immediately places individuals in defensive modes as they attempt to defend their own personal “turfs.”

It is important for managers who lead to recognize employees’ responses to change and show them that circumstances outside of their control make change inevitable. They must share and communicate information that employees can understand and react to in a way that gets them actively participating in the organizational transformation brought about by the forces of change. This means managers must demonstrate to their employees that it is in their best interest to adapt if the organization is going to survive and prosper in the face of change.

Related: Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

There are a number of steps managers can take to lessen their employee’s fear of change and facilitate smoother transitions.


Managers as leaders understand the need for open dialogue and discussion with their employees, and that this must be predicated on a complete sharing of available facts and figures with them so they can see for themselves what the organization is facing.

Employees’ apprehensions can be greatly reduced by sharing available information in order for them to understand the reasons for change, the factors that make it inevitable and the options available. This openness enables employees to see the challenges facing the organization and gives them opportunities to provide input as to possible alternatives and solutions.

When information is withheld, employees are suspicious of leadership’s intentions and motivation. This surely undermines trusts and confidence, heightens fears and resistance.


The idea of change and the transformation of an organization during times of change are stressful on all parties involved. Employees want their leaders’ assurance that they will be treated fairly, that their ideas, feedback and input will be considered, and that they will be kept informed on the progress of changes and their potential impact.

If there have been circumstances in the past where the organization has not treated their employees with consideration, sentiments of mistrust will be present that leaders must deal with. Building adequate levels of trust is a challenge for managers, but enables them to lead their employees through periods of transformation.


As managers move their employees through an organizational transformation, they must make sure that they have built sufficient trust with them. Trust enables employees to have confidence in their leader’s direction. This is also true for the upper levels of the organization. Employees must have confidence in all decisions being made during times of change.

Without adequate confidence in their leadership, employees may trust the manager who is leading them at their specific level, but mistrust those higher up in the organization. This places the immediate manager in the precarious position of having to build employees’ trust and confidence in senior leadership. Prior experiences with these senior leaders may foster more mistrust than trust. In these cases, managers on all levels must cooperate to instill trust and confidence in all employees.

Related: Focusing Employees on Common Goals


Managers who respect their employees’ intelligence and abilities lay the facts on the table and solicit their ideas, perspectives and input. Employee involvement in addressing issues such as change bonds all together in the conquering of a common challenge. As the organization goes through a transformation, this cohesiveness is essential to ensure a smooth transition.

Involvement means gaining employee support and getting them actively working toward the development of a solution to everyone’s benefit. When wise enough to ask, many managers are astonished by the ideas and insight they receive from their employees. When the facts are placed before them and the choices spelled out, most employees will work together to achieve common goals and objectives. Most are actively involved because their future is at stake. There will be a certain percentage of employees who do not participate out of fear that their contribution will be used against them. In these instances, managers must inspire the rest of the group, hoping that positive peer pressure might influence more reluctant members to get involved.


The role of the manager is to lead employees through transformational change; the employee’s is to direct the change at their individual level. This means that in addition to their ideas, insights and feedback, employees must actively participate in implementing them on an individual level. When this active involvement is cultivated, employees are informed and actively part of the development of the solutions, resistance and fear of change can be minimized. This is because managers have empowered their employees both through ownership of ideas and the responsibility for seeing them successfully implemented. It is only when orders and directives are handed down without reason and rationale that employee resistance and fears increase.

Related: Power Must Be Shared for Organizations to Grow


Managers know how to close the loop by providing employees with active feedback regarding the results of their efforts to transform the organization. This continual feedback provides a supply of accurate information enabling employees to make informed decisions on how to successfully adapt their ideas to new variables and conditions.

Excerpt: The Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

Four Major Hindrances to Empowerment

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The concept of empowerment demands the full participation and interaction of all levels of an organization. Problems arise when there is a lack of commitment by leaders to actually implement empowerment strategies throughout the organization. They mouth the words of empowerment but fail to back them up with real actions to remove barriers for all employees.

Leaders have a powerful position to play in the transition and development of a company’s ability to successfully implement employee empowerment throughout the entire organization. Leaders understand that the implementation process of empowerment is concerned with more than just the mechanical aspects accompanying the transitions and change.

It is important to understand that many barriers to real empowerment exist because of the pitfalls many organizations stumble into. Most of them materialize because of a failure to focus on how to improve the more indirect value characteristics of the organization. These characteristics involve the issues of trust, responsibility, harmony, participation and cooperative group efforts. Often the responsibility lies with the leader who fears a change in the status quo and an erosion of his or her power and authority.

One of the key phrases that defines empowerment is “participative management.” Research has demonstrated a positive link between employee participation and work satisfaction and between motivation and performance. These links are hindered from occurring when leaders fall short in recognizing the potential of their employees and fail to see how much power these individuals potentially carry to solve major problems and issues. The four major pitfalls leaders encounter as they attempt to transition into empowering their employees become manifested when they begin to mix the messages of empowerment or fail to link actions to ideas. These include the following beliefs:

“Empowerment is just a term used to produce the same actions to get similar results.”

Decisions are being continually made at the top in spite of the organization saying it is empowering its employees. This mixed message supported by accompanying actions does much to undermine an employee’s willingness to participate, improve performance, and accept additional responsibility.

A traditional labor division still exists even though participation is actively sought. This is generally caused by leaders failing to delegate meaningful assignments, tasks and projects able to have a real impact on building confidence and worker satisfaction.

Many leaders believe that empowerment can still be accomplished through delegating, but that there must be some form of direct or indirect control when it comes to overseeing what is being delegated.

“We are all in this together…up to a point.”

Many leaders fail to realize one important fact: if employees directly affected by proposed changes are not involved in the decision to change, they will fight its progress.

Employees should not be told what to do, but be given the opportunity to learn where, when and what to do in specific situations. Many leaders have their own fears to overcome, generally believing that empowerment will lead to them relinquishing authority and ultimately losing their jobs. Most resistance to empowerment comes from middle management. Leaders fail to see how these fears can be reduced or eliminated by setting, measuring and evaluating performance together with their organizational work units.

Organizations often fail at the top levels when desiring to implement empowerment. They thwart its success because they are shortsighted in not training their own leaders and supervisors to understand empowerment concepts, the value these ideas have for the company as a whole, or how to personally cope with change.

Organizations do not recognize the importance of the primary role of leadership in empowerment: to support and stimulate their employees to cooperate in overcoming cross-functional barriers and eliminating fear within their own work units.

“Empowerment begins at the top and works downward.”

Many organizations feel it is better to start empowerment changes at the top and then work down to employees, even though this limits some aspects of empowerment. Upper and even middle management often argue that employees are unable to get the whole picture of the organization and are unqualified to make most important decisions, especially those that impact profitability.

Organizations often forget or fail to recognize another important aspect of empowerment: delegating responsibility to the lowest levels of the organization. Leaders need to emphasize that the decision making process should be highly decentralized, and employees in work-designed groups or teams should be responsible for their part in work processes.

Empowerment is seen as a byproduct. Many organizations look at employee empowerment as a result of an organization’s strategy and technology that focuses on how to improve costs, speed and efficiency, not as the essential ingredient to make it happen. They fail to look upon empowerment as a direct strategy to produce higher quality, productivity and efficiency.

“Employees are not the only top priority… many others are equally as important.”

Organizations often fail to realize that without productive employees they are nothing and can do nothing. They sometimes become shortsighted and fail to realize that empowerment works best when employees need the organization as much as the organization needs them.

Organizations often feel an employee’s real need lies in an increased paycheck or better benefit package. There is a general belief that employees only wish to work for monetary compensation. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and their demands grow accordingly because employees resort to this focus when they are not allowed to play an integral part in the organization.

Leaders forget to follow the golden rule: they must treat their employees the way they would want their bosses to treat them. Leaders must define what their actions and words mean to employees so that they realize concepts of fairness, respect, and consideration are an important element in the overall work culture and climate.

If you would like to learn more about effective empowerment strategies, refer to Empowerment: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It
and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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