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Sunday, March 21, 2010

GO WEST! Organizational Empowerment

Go West! with Christine West

“There's a basic philosophy here that by empowering... workers you'll make their jobs far more interesting, and they'll be able to work at a higher level than they would have without all that information just a few clicks away.”
-- Bill Gates

All people need some means to pay their bills and maintain the lifestyle they have created. For those of us who weren’t born into wealth, who haven’t won the lottery, or found a wealthy spouse for financial support, we must earn a wage and work. The question is: What motivates us to do what we do?

It is interesting to note that money is not always the prime motivator, nor is fear.

Turn over is expensive for companies, as is change in management teams and company restructuring. Everyone deals with change and transition differently. Change in life is inevitable, but how do companies manage that change? How do leaders and managers manage the cost of their decisions? Too often repeated patterns occur in the organizational life that cost the organization more because of treating symptoms and refusal to find the root cause. Proper problem solving requires establishing an identity or role in the problem. For example, if an organization has pattern of stability and 20% turnover in a month, what is the human motivation behind a group of people to join and to later leave an organization all in the same month?

The easy route is blaming the people who moved on and never taking responsibility. These actions are costly and are signs of an immature organization. These are important factors to analyze to maintain stability monetary growth and workforce development.

Psychology plays a tremendous role in the business world. Human behavior is more complex than just seeking rewards or avoiding punishments. Human motivation has a deeper cause and a more profound purpose than many in the business world think.

Most people want to discover their purpose and have their talents optimized through that purpose. When a person desires to engage her talents and realize her true potential in life, this is called self-actualization. Once a person is self-actualized, she is in a position to follow her calling. A leader needs to lead, a manager needs to manage, an engineer needs to engineer, salesperson needs to sell, a healer need to treat illness, a speaker needs to speak and narrate, a dancer needs to dance, a singer needs to sing, and a writer needs to write. If these needs are not met, the person feels on edge and lacking something.

One of the challenges in the current business world (regardless of the industry) stems from the fact that management teams are often managing employees as though the management teams are seeking rewards or avoiding punishments instead of accurately understanding the motivation are of each individual. Clearly, each person is an individual and is motivated by different incentives. However, most organizations do not create a structure to help a person to reach their peak potential.

Another challenge in many organizations is that management teams use the word “empowerment” too loosely. If an employee is empowered to do his or her job responsibilities, then that employee needs to be allowed to be creative and think out of the box and be allowed to make decisions. Many management teams do not take the time to evaluate individual behaviors, and instead, enforce an autocratic leadership style to micromanage the employee. This creates a parent-child relationship in the workplace. Most employees would be more productive if management teams managed employees as an adult to adult. Adults communicate with other adults; parents control children. When employees are treated as adults, this boosts moral and creates true empowerment.

We spend a lot of our time at work and it should be a positive experience. Some people have been living in a world that always told them what to do. This makes life easy for them. They never let themselves discover their weakness or failures, not to mention their strengths. One can learn from self-actualizing people what the ideal attitude toward work might be under the most favorable circumstances. These highly evolved individuals assimilate their work into their identity of self, where work actually becomes part of the self and part of the individual’s definition of self.

It is then easier for each of us to be who we are instead of working toward being something we are not. This is true empowerment.



About the Author: Christine M. West, TheBusinessMD, 2240 E. Tudor Rd. #976, Anchorage, Alaska, USA 99507. Phone 1-907-223-8403. Email:,

Christine West is an industrial organizational psychology practitioner and is in private practice as TheBusinessMD which helps organizations and individuals overcome fear and explore the power of change. Ms. West is also a Featured Columnist for the National Networker

For more information, please visit Christine's TNNW Bio.


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The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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