What would you suggest we do?
My exceedingly smart friend Gerry Faust reckons that empowerment, like many other great ideas, is much more difficult to implement than some would lead us to believe. And I think he’s probably right.
Here’s the deal: long-term success is based on your organisation’s reputation in the marketplace.
That reputation is determined by the outcome of thousands of interactions with your customers called moments of truth (a term coined by Jan Carlzon, CEO of SAS Airlines back in the eighties).
If a moment of truth results in a customer being delighted or getting more than they expect, your organisation’s reputation improves. If it results in disappointment, it declines. Simples.
The people who manage the moments of truth are the people who deal directly with your customers.
And the person who manages them is you.
Initially we believed that giving people more authority would do the trick. But now we’re smarter than that.
We now know that the challenge is to empower responsible, skilled, aligned and informed people.
To put it less kindly, empowering people who don’t have these characteristics is like putting the inmates in charge of the asylum.
It follows that the challenge for you is to develop responsible, skilled, aligned and informed people and then empower them to handle the moments of truth that arise in your business.
Carlzon thought SAS had around 50,000 of them a day. Fortunately you have slightly less than that.
You should also know that in order for empowerment to work one of the critical skills your staff must learn is judgement.
Judgement often involves balancing the responsibility we have to customers, the organisation and the people in the organisation.
And you can encourage your team to exercise their judgement more often by using these six magic words: “What would you suggest we do?”