Everyone is important
Put simply, the keystone to supporting empowerment. Everyone in the team should know how they – and the job they do – contribute(s) to the big picture and this requires constant communication of where you are trying to get, the important milestones along the way and where they are adding to the story. Then, critically, you must treat everyone with the same respect - from the lady on reception to the CEO. Ask yourself this: do you want people to listen to someone because they are right or because they are the boss? That answer is obvious but often in corporate life the foundation is not there for the right answer to be heard even though someone in the team has it.
Integrity without compromise
I once worked for a bank where we found out that there was rounding error in the thousandth decimal place in the interest calculations; we issued a public apology and refunded every penny to the Customers without exception. I remember thinking it was a shame that we were mocked in the press for sending out tiny refund cheques to Customers who had closed their accounts years earlier. As C.S. Lewis said “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
We have a fun and safe environment
People need to enjoy themselves at work. I don’t believe in the notion of “work-life balance”. It is not an either/or situation because work is part of life. Work is necessary to support your family and other parts of your life but that does not mean it shouldn’t have real purpose and be enjoyable. That is why fun should not be a bad thing at work; it should be a seamless part of it. Fun and safe is a bit different. We combine the two because safe without fun can often be boring and boredom leads to mediocrity. Once you have people who understand their roles and how they fit into the big picture you need them to stretch themselves. They need to feel safe to do this effectively. This means People having the ability to go for it and sometimes fail, all without personal consequence.
Making these things a reality is harder than agreeing to them in principle. It takes something special from your leaders. They need to be consistent and flexible at the same time: consistent on the principles but flexible on the approach. Teams need to have a real sense of purpose versus a defined list of actions. Above all, you have to make very visible statements to go with your actions.
I think in my case the big statement was to meet individually with everyone in the team and then do the 'awkward walk' regularly. It sounds easy but when you have hundreds in the team it becomes a bit more of a challenge. It does however set a tone from the top and then you can go from there as one team.