June 2018

Empowered and Afraid

One of my favorite buzzwords in the business world today is the word "Empowered."

What does it mean? I hear it used by employees, team members, executives, senior executives, CEO's and Board members. Everyone wants to feel empowered, or empower others. I have noted how senior executives and members of the "C" suite want their subordinate leaders to feel more empowered.

Asking what exactly does that mean, I do get a reasonably consistent answer. It is giving subordinates the latitude to make decisions, to take action. Take action without the need to get permission for every action taken.

The idea of empowerment can be confusing. I hear senior executives lamenting over subordinate leaders not accepting the level of empowerment that is being given. I understand from junior leaders the desire to be more empowered. Is empowerment a hot potato no one wants to hold?

Being empowered is having the authority to make decisions and take action without having to receive permission. It is a situation everyone seems to want, but not many know how to handle. It becomes a word used and a reality many fear.

I have found many leaders use the word empowered and they are afraid to exercise that empowerment because they have no idea how to make decisions. They are not familiar with any decision-making process. They have no idea that there is a cycle to decision-making. Moreover, they are not familiar with developing viable alternatives and weighing the risk.

The very thought of exercising their empowerment, making decisions, for many is like winning a hot dog eating contest—you won, but you're going to be sick.

Senior leaders, help out those you want to empower. Teach them how to make decisions. There is a methodology. Give them parameters on what they can and cannot do without your input. When things go wrong, and things always go wrong, be curious, not condemning. You now have a teachable moment. Ask the fundamental questions—What happened? What did you learn? What will you do in the future to avoid similar results?

Leaders at every level regardless of industry are fearful of making decisions. They have never been taught how. No one wants to be wrong. No one wants the finger pointed at him or her for his or her error. Instead, leaders go on the quest for the perfect decision. The perfect decision does not exist. In the end, few take on the empowerment that is given, and even fewer who ask for more empowerment want it. They are afraid.

The cure for fear is knowledge. Teach first, empower second; the great results may surprise you.

Discipline in the Little Things

Ladies, a piece of advice on leading—be disciplined in the little things. Most successful leaders have a way of doing most things. There is a methodology for accomplishing whatever the task may be.

Great leaders are disciplined to apply their methodology, consistently with everything. They do not cut corners.

The great UCLA Basketball Coach, John Wooden won 10 NCAA Basketball Championships in 12 years, and seven of those were in a row. The most any other college has won is four in a row.

Coach Wooden is known for his disciplined, methodical approach to all facets of the game. It is said that players who played on his first championship team could perform equally well on his last championship team. The practices remained the same; the playbook remained virtually unchanged, he went so far as to insist on how the players were to tie their athletic shoes. A player sidelined for blisters was unacceptable.

The legendary Pat Summitt, Coach of the University of Tennessee's Lady Vol's won eight national titles and was the first coach to 1,000 wins. One hundred percent of her players who completed their eligibility earned a diploma as well.

She is known for her "commitment to the tedium." Cutting no corners at any time and consistently devoting sustained focus on the task at hand not on self.

The difference between good and great leaders is discipline to their methodology and consistency in execution. What may seem nonsensical makes a difference.

Tie your shoes and focus on the task.

Keep Your Team Informed

I am often asked for leadership advice based on my Marine Corps experience for use in business. This section is providing short leadership tips you can use to become an Exceptional Leader. Being good on any given day is easy. Being exceptional requires daily effort. Enjoy the read.

One of the quickest ways of losing respect and support from your team is to keep them in the dark and give them a sound bite like this—"This is what we are going to do because I said so!" or words to that effect.

Keeping your team informed, as best you can, shows respect for your team, and makes them feel like they are valued members of the organization. From time to time, you may not have the ability to go into a lengthy explanation. Sometimes, immediate action is required. However, one is well advised to back brief the team once the situation allows.

Being a leader remains a tough job, and it is getting tougher by the minute.

Current Happenings


On August 28th John will be providing a Presentation/Workshop at the Arizona SHRM event. The event will be at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa.

The topic—Executive Level Decision-Making


COL. Byron Freeman U.S. Army (Ret.) President of BAF Security and I will be returning to Delta College in Michigan to teach the popular course "21st Century Community Policing and Cultural Competency."

Enrollment is open now on the website.

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