Vail Daily column: What does empowerment really mean? | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: What does empowerment really mean?

I was in a recent meeting where the concept of empowerment was summed up brilliantly: Simply stated, empowerment requires responsibility and accountability. Empowerment, at its core and in order to be meaningful, requires giving trust to another in such a way that “my trust is yours.” This trust can be lost, but it is assumed.

Powerful Buzzword

Empowerment is a powerful business buzzword and while empowerment isn’t a new topic, it is a topic that has numerous meanings depending upon the context.

Clearly, empowerment is more than a buzzword — when done right, empowerment is a cultural approach that ties individuals, organizations, communities and customers together to create a better outcome for each group of stakeholders.

After all, consumers are empowered through social media and disruptive innovation such as Uber and Vacation Rental by Owner. An empowered customer often results in consternation from established businesses as assumed ways of doing business are turned on their heads, but also disruptive technology often results in higher satisfaction with the service and pushes traditional operators to improve their guest interface and processes.

An empowered company likely understands and appreciates that the “human factor” can add or subtract from the bottom line and likely is not threatened by disruptive technology. Benefits to an empowered company include higher levels of employee satisfaction, a sense of shared purpose, and greater collaboration. The overall result for the organization is to deliver enhanced value to the customer — possibly via the very disruptive technology that could otherwise cause consternation. Empowered companies require employees who are equally empowered.

Taking Initiative

Empowered employees (likely within an empowered company) might be given the resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, and be held responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, in hopes that this will contribute to their competence and satisfaction. Empowered employees who take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve customer service are likely more valued for increasing service levels, guest satisfaction and ultimately profits.

Cooperative Approach

Empowered communities — while maybe not as easy to describe as the others on this list — are equally important. These communities (for sake of clarity, a community might be a town or a neighborhood or a county or even a civic organization) require a cooperative and organized approach. Empowered communities work in ways that encourage citizens or stakeholders to actively participate in order to influence outcomes and provide tools to help drive decision making processes. Voices are heard and challenges are approached in an inclusive manner.

Clearly, empowerment is more than a buzzword — when done right, empowerment is a cultural approach that ties individuals, organizations, communities and customers together to create a better outcome for each group of stakeholders.

Starting Point

But what does empowerment really mean, regardless of the (consumer, business, employee or community) initial starting point? Those truly empowered need to be able to act in self-interest, yet at the same time respect the relationships that exist with partners. And vice versa. Our individual and collective long-term gains can be much greater via empowered, interdependent relationships than in one-off gains found independently.

Empowerment requires responsibility and accountability. This statement is brilliant in its simplicity yet requires the decidedly not simple task of trust in order to work. It requires buy-in, continuous learning and improvement, and mutual trust.

Consider what a culture of empowerment might mean within your organization, business, or community and the benefits to everyone when we’re empowered. Ultimately, that’s a resolution we can all strive for as we approach 2015.

Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership.