Earning empowerment comes from within

  • Published
  • By Michael S. Jackson
  • 416th SCMS
Since the 1980s, there has been a lot of talk about quality. No, I'm not going to tell you to set your hair on fire or anything like that. From W. Edwards Deming (management statistician) to process improvement teams, to current AFSO21 Rapid Improvement Events, we have learned about, briefed, bragged about, and measured quality. You'll find it in almost every organization's mission statement and balanced scorecard.

One of the major tenets of every version of a quality program is empowerment, yet it is perhaps the least understood. We've read about employees in automobile production lines literally shutting down manufacturing because they find a part out of specification. These techniques have led us to vastly improved consumer goods. However, while everyone wants more control over their job and therefore wants to be empowered, it must be earned the same as any other privilege.

Management's No. 1 rule

A good manager will develop employees. Managers also have a mission to accomplish. These facts lead us to the No. 1 rule of management: Surround yourself with good people. Reliable people have earned empowerment. A popular misconception is management is obligated to empower employees and, once empowered, management is out of the picture. Nothing could be further from the truth. While employees may be empowered, management retains full responsibility and accountability for mission accomplishment. Therefore, those empowered must be absolutely dependable.


Employees, including every layer of management and those within their purview, must comprehend the power they have. High performance leads to high expectations and vice versa. Each of us has daily opportunities to excel and to be depended upon. Just as no one is automatically respected because of the office or position they hold, no one should expect to be automatically empowered. Once empowered and upon successful task completion, you will be sought out for higher and increased responsibilities -- more empowerment.

Quality work

Do you take assignments seriously? Are your completions timely with little management oversight? Is your work accurate? When confronted with problems that must move up the management chain do you provide clear, concise details of the problems to include potential and recommended solutions? Do you determine and report conceivable and unapparent impacts? Do you follow through to ensure your efforts are having the desired effect? These are the behaviors of someone who can be depended upon and, therefore, empowered.

Management wantsto empower you

There are few things in our professional lives as rewarding as the realization of, and the confidence gained from, a job well done. Earning challenging empowerment means you have become one of those essential people with whom managers choose to surround themselves and keep within the organization. You are experts at your job, that's why you're here; someday you'll empower someone else. So ask yourself this question: Who knows better than management if you are ready to be empowered?

The answer is: the person looking back at you in the mirror as you're getting ready for work each morning.