Engineering Leadership Principle #10: Empowerment

Jul 10, 2020 | Leadership | 0 comments

By Bernie Gunn, Engineering Manager, Brindley Engineering

“I understand how I am empowered, and how my work impacts the organization’s business goals.”

This is one of the survey questions from Brindley Engineering’s (BE) recent Engagement Survey that is sent to employees periodically throughout the year.  Of all the survey questions, it may be the most important in gauging employees’ sense of value and thereby how BE Leadership, to quote Simon Sinek, is “creating an environment in which people feel they can be their best”.

Empowerment is key.

For an employee to be empowered they must have some ownership. They must be encouraged to contribute in their own ways.   As leaders, we need to instill and establish the opportunity for employees to take ownership early in a project.  Ownership is established at the start when all team members are encouraged to contribute to project planning.  During an initial project kick-off meeting, it is common to review the “When”, “What”, “Why”, and “How” of the project.   The “When”, “What”, and “Why” are dictated by the client’s needs and project scope, and tend to be fixed.  A Leader should dedicate detailed instructions and healthy conversation about the 3 W’s.  Ownership and Empowerment stem from the “How”.   Getting collective individual input and ideas on the solutions to the project’s technical and schedule challenges at a kick-off will establish an employee’s contribution on an individual level and create great alignment on a team level.

Along with ownership and empowerment comes accountability.  It is essential that a leader provides a clear and concise definition of what determines a successful project.  This includes reviewing the project objectives and parameter or KPI measurements related to budget, schedule, and quality.  However, there may be other less measurable objectives that will also define project success.  The team needs to understand expectations from the start so they can execute accordingly.  Establishing client specific information related to communication, work processes and procedures, deliverable formats, expected progress reviews are just a few items that can be keys to building an aligned team to drive expected outcomes.  An employee who has ownership and is empowered, but lacks accountability, is a recipe for a poor project and a disgruntled client.  Conversely, to hold any one of your team accountable without established ownership and empowerment is a recipe for a disgruntled employee.

During the project, execution is where trust is solidified.  For ownership to be maintained throughout the project, progress and results need to be monitored, and the means and methods used to execute the project need to be trusted.  A trusted, empowered employee is guided, not directed.

Brindley’s culture of high performing, passionate employees, is built on the recognition and belief that Ownership, Engagement, Value, Empowerment, and Accountability are all intertwined and interdependent.

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