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Empowerment – Not For The Faint-Hearted – Knowing What You Know Now, What Would You Do Differently?

Written by: David Bingley, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor David Bingley

Empowerment is a beautiful skill to possess. A skill that anyone can learn. A skill that comes with great responsibility, accountability, and, above all, commitment. It also comes at a cost. Certainly, there is a cost in time commitment and patience and a financial cost in lost income, depending on the scenario.

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I understood the great responsibility associated with empowerment as a young manager. It represented an obligation or commitment that I was undertaking with an individual or team.

Clear expectations in and around what empowerment means are a fundamental, non-negotiable part of the process. It means that I am empowering you to make decisions. To be responsible and accountable for those decisions. My role is to create a safe space or bubble for you to learn and thrive in while making those decisions. And to support and honor those sub-optimal decisions. Because I want you to be successful and continue to make decisions and learn from them. Reflect on them. And ask yourself, what did I learn? What could I do differently? What went well? What could I do more of?

For context. I have two very different examples.

Years ago, when I was a midlevel Hospitality Executive. My General Manager decided to roll out a hotel-wide empowerment policy aligned with our global corporate narrative. Brilliant. I supported that wholeheartedly. And that was it. Literally, we will roll out a hotel-wide empowerment policy where all staff are empowered to make decisions independently. Box Checked.

I recall being horrified at the lack of responsibility, accountability, or commitment to understanding the potential fallout.

The rollout day came, and within an hour, an employee made a decision that resulted in a catastrophic meltdown. The results of that decision had all related senior leaders, executives, and general manager present.  

The opportunity to support the individual with their decision, nurture them, and use this as a learning moment did not arise. No one in that department and anyone else on the property under the level of Manager would make any decision outside of the black-and-white policy and procedure.

Years later, I was lecturing on food and beverage in a private hospitality academy where I was responsible for the fine-dining restaurant operation. I had a student, a brilliant young man of about 18 years. He had never been to a fine-dining restaurant or a five-star hotel. Yet he was holding himself to his perceived standard of what a high-end lifestyle operation required.

He had total control of the floor plan, and all tables were occupied when a table of five walked in. He politely told them we were full and tried to book them for the following day. The owner of the academy and Principal happened to be there and got extremely upset. He was berating the boy when I arrived. I took charge and moved the Principal on, telling him I would sort it out. I told the guests to give us five minutes, and I would have a table for them.

I then took the boy to the side and told him what he had done so far was perfect. I supported his decisions and process. Saying we know what we know and don't know what we don't. Let me guide you through this process, and we can unpack what happened afterward. 

Taking his floor plan, I showed him what we would do. We had to move one guest in the middle of her lunch to another table, which allowed us to accommodate a table of five.

He felt, rightly so, that it was impolite. I agreed with him and told him that we do this all the time in operations, which is why his reception role is to maximize the revenue opportunities by utilizing the tables to capacity.

Also, I told him when we move anyone, we generally offer a complimentary dessert and coffee or, in extreme cases, comp the meal. He was shocked at the prospect of losing income. I reminded him that we are in hospitality and what that means, plus, at worst, we lose one meal but gain four. Overall, we are up.

The key takeaway from empowering others is that we must neutrally stand in their shoes. Take away all perspectives of common sense and projections of what you would have done differently. Because you have not walked in their shoes or had their rich and varied life experience, which culminated in making that decision at that moment.

We must be curious and ask them what led them to make that decision. What was their rationale? What did they learn? What would they do differently next time? We must make it into a learning opportunity and case study. Keep them safe in the knowledge that we all make sub-optimal decisions. We must use them as learning opportunities and encourage them to reflect on what they could do better to make better choices and decisions in the future.

Banging them on the head and reprimanding them will only shut them down. They will be reticent, reluctant to make decisions and frustrate you when they keep coming to you for a decision or approval. You reap what you sow.

Knowing what you know now… what would you do differently?

In-Vision Coaching… taking small steps to live large.

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David Bingley Brainz Magazine

David Bingley, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

David Bingley is an expert in Leadership and Empowerment Coaching, working on mental/emotional fitness and self-awareness. By exploring perspectives to define purpose and direction (our vision, mission and ambition for ourself and the world) to how we frame ourself and embrace our values so our intentions and actions are aligned. David founded In-Vision Coaching as a platform to assist people to empower themselves, take control of their life using the strategies, frameworks and structures he developed to fine tune for peak performance. You may work with David in 1:1 coaching, team coaching or specialist workshops, taking small steps to… LIVE LARGE!



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