The Road to Empowerment: Seven Questions Every Leader Should Consider

I have read most of the articles that was given to us, I am particularly interested in discussing one of the articles that was given to us for reading. That article is “The road to empowerment: Seven Questions Every leader should consider. ” I would be discussing this article with reference to Chapters on Motivation and Empowerment from the textbook and also, with extra information that I have garnered from external sources. First, I would like to comment on the notion of mechanistic and organic approach towards empowerment. This notion reminds me of “The Burns and Stalker Study” .

The study was an analysis of 20 industrial firms in the United Kingdom and the effects of the external environment on the pattern of their management and economic performance. Burns and Stalker identify two divergent systems of management practice and structure – the ‘mechanistic’ system and the ‘organic’ system. In their study, they have mentioned that the mechanistic system is a more rigid structure and more appropriate to stable conditions and in contrast, the organic system is a more fluid structure appropriate to changing conditions.

The definition of mechanistic and organic is very much similar to what the authors of the article have depicted. The study of Burns and Stalker has a very important conclusion and resonated with what the authors of the article have mentioned. There are immediate stages between the two extreme systems which represent not a dichotomy but a polarity. The relationship between the mechanistic and organic system is not rigid. An organization that displays both relatively stable and relatively changing environment may move between the two systems.

This has further reinforced the authors’ idea of integrating mechanistic and organic empowerment. As mentioned in the textbook, the workers’ flexibility must match the flexibility of the environment, which I agree very much with. With this similarity, I cannot help but insinuate that the success of empowerment depends largely on how an organization is operated, that is mechanically or organically. Reading further down the article affirmed my insinuation. The authors mentioned the 3 major barriers that impede the promotion of empowerment in an organization and one of them is bureaucratic culture.

Hence being a very much mechanized organization will probably impede to a large extent the efforts to inculcate empowerment. Whilst being a very much organic organization might make it lose much of its control and accountability. A balanced structure, I believe, would be beneficial. In another area of discussion in the article, the authors have mentioned the Ford Motor Company’s Leadership Education and Development program. They further came up with a flow chart on the process of empowerment. This process chart is a very good way to assist me in understanding the events that lead to successful empowerment efforts.

However in another article found in Psychology Today , the authors of the very article that I am currently commenting on, actually found out the hidden behavior of the managers in Ford. Interestingly, this hidden behavior was not mentioned in the article. In the same study of 191 middle managers who were entering the LEAD program, Spreitzer figured that Ford’s star supervisors would dutifully embrace the company’s call for change and reorganize their departments. But, in fact, it was the workers whose careers had stalled who were most likely to attempt the dramatic changes Ford wanted.

Puzzled, Spreitzer and Quinn looked for an explanation from the second-string managers themselves. “They told us, ‘We’re not going to get promoted anyway, so we might as well do what we think is right,'” reported Spreitzer. And the high-achieving managers? Perhaps because they’d benefited most from the status quo, they were more reluctant to rock the boat by altering the corporate structure. This made me doubt the whole objective of empowerment in the aspect of the ones being empowered. As mentioned in the textbook, empowerment is a “pull” strategy.

It focuses on ways that managers can design a work situation so that it energizes and provides intrinsic encouragement to employees. But in Ford’s case, the main objective behind the change is that employees who are stagnant used it as a chance to break free from their inability to advance. Extrinsic motivation is very much exhibited in this case. Whilst employees who are doing very well would try to make as little change as possible. This of course meant that motivated employees, regardless intrinsically or extrinsically, are not necessary the ones who are doing very well.

This extension of their studies which was not published together with the article contrasted greatly from theories and has allowed me to view subjects from psychological angles. In the article, Spreitzer has mentioned a very important ideology. That is empowered people empower themselves. For example, if a person has the organization’s “permission” to act autonomously but does not believe that she or he has the capability of acting effectively, then the autonomy will not result in improved outcomes for either the organization or the person.

My example relates greatly to Spreitzer’s own five dimensions. In particular, the self-determination dimension. Self-determination, as mentioned in the textbook and article by Spreitzer, refers to feelings of having a choice. Workers would need to make a choice to believe that they truly are empowered before anything constructive can happen. As Spreitzer has mentioned in the article, empowerment is a mind-set that employees have about their role in the organization.

An empirical research was carried out to observe the relationships between employees’ perceptions of their work environment and their reported sense of empowerment. In this paper, the researchers examined the relationships between four contextual factors related to empowerment (communication with supervisor, general relations with company, teamwork, and concern for performance) and the four components of psychological empowerment (meaning, impact, self-determination, and competence) identified by Spreitzer.

One of the key findings is that communication with supervisor and general relations with company were significantly related to the empowerment facets of meaning, self-determination, and impact, but were not related to the facet of competence. From here we can observe that relations with the company actually affect self-determination. If the kind of relation that was built up was not based on trust, it would be difficult for the workers to actually make a choice to believe that they are truly empowered even when the organization genuinely wants them to be empowered.

Sad but true. In my opinion, trust has to be built up for quite some time before self-determination would be able to kick in and results in empowered people empowering themselves. The cycle of empowerment that evolved from Ford’s LEAD program shown in the article has given me a very good view at how empowerment takes place. In an online article by Chris Musslewhite , he has mentioned that motivation essentially is empowerment. This has sparked my interest in finding the link that motivation has in various stages of the cycle.

In the first stage, employees are required to have an in-depth personal evaluation and cognitive reframing. This will allow them to have a different perspective of themselves and their environment. We can turn to motivational theories such as Locke’s Goal Theory. You may wonder why I am using Locke’s Goal Theory . Remember the separately published extension of Spreitzer work? Where only the managers who had hit a stumbling block in their career will react to the organization’s efforts to introduce empowerment? The Goal’s Theory fits perfectly in this scenario.

The basic premise of goal theory is that people’s goals or intentions play an important part in determining behavior. During the first stage, in order for employees to have a redefinition of one and engage in new patterns of action, it is important that they identify the goal and expectancy of them in this phase. This should not only be confine on identifying the goals of the organization but also their personal goals. Only by doing do, will a personal transformation, a change in the individual’s schema or cause map occur.

It is only when people have the urge to not remain status quo, as in the case of the managers in Spreitzer’s research, will engage in the process of the Goal Theory and thereby start the very first stage of the cycle of empowerment. The second stage of the cycle of empowerment is the increased in self-confidence. What Spreitzer has mentioned in the article is that when individuals passed the first stage and proceeded on to innovate changes and is successful, will result in increased self-confidence.

Maslow’s need hierarchy can be applied here. Some of the organizational factors that will result in self-actualisation are opportunities for creativity and achievement in work. During the second stage of the cycle of empowerment, the need for innovative actions is important, that calls for creativity. When such creative ways for carrying out work results in praises from the management, self-actualisation will occur and thereby increased motivation and self-confidence. Herzberg’s two-factor theory also points to the same conclusion.

The motivation-hygiene theory has extended Maslow’s hierarchy of need theory and is more directly applicable to the work situation. Herzberg’s theory suggests that if management is to provide positive motivation then attention must be given not only to hygiene factors, but also to the motivating factors. This set of factors, if present, serves to motivate the individual to superior effort and performance. The motivators relate to what people are allowed to do and the quality of human experience at work. Empowerment in this aspect plays a very important role.

If the employees are allowed to a greater extent of what they can do, mistakes are condoned, continuous learning is made possible, the motivators in Herzberg’s theory will manifest. Not only will it lead to higher self-confidence, employees will become more motivated as compared to the past. In relation to Spreitzer’s disempowering cycle, she mentioned that if punishment is dealt to employees for mistakes that were made during the cycle of empowerment, it will actually lead to individuals feeling more disempowered than before.

This is true only to a certain extent. I do not agree totally on this view of hers. Much as a management wishes to empower its employees, they cannot indiscriminately condone employees’ mistakes, especially when the mistake can cost the company huge losses. Skinner’s thesis on operant conditioning or the reinforcement theory that evolved from it can be use to bridge my disagreement with Spreitzer’s view on disempowering cycle as well as making the whole process of empowerment suffer from less hiccups.

As depicted in Skinner’s stage 1 of operant conditioning, this is the pre-learning stage, if an employee’s initial effort to display empowerment is not that desirable in the view of the organization, no rewards can be handed out. In contrast to Spreitzer’s way of punishing that leads to disempowerment, stage 1 of operant conditioning would be a milder way to discourage employees in causing damaging consequences that is brought about during the process of empowerment.

The benefit of such operant conditioning is that the employee is not discouraged so badly till a point that he or she gives up totally and feel disgruntled on the whole effort to empowering by the organization. In stage 2 of operant conditioning, the state of learning stage, the employee who has been trying very hard to engage in the empowering efforts would have realized what are the desirable empowerment efforts on his or her part as the organization keeps rewarding them for the desirable behaviour.

In the final stage of operant conditioning, the stimulus-response bond would have been formed and the employee has finished learning what are the desirable empowerment behaviors that the organization looks for. The organization is now in a better situation as compared to no reinforcement theory in place. Disempowerment can be avoided when the learning process is done correctly. This will also reduce any possible damaging effects that may be brought about during the whole empowerment process. This will in no doubt benefit the organization in the long run.

I would also like to add on to what organizational characteristics facilitate employee empowerment. Spreitzer has mentioned that having clear vision, openness, discipline, control, support and a sense of security to be the organizational characteristics needed to facilitate employee empowerment. Spreitzer’s opinion that highly empowered feel that they understand top management’s vision and strategic direction for the organization can be expanded. Communication comes through as a major factor in the success of empowerment. Clear vision must be communicated from the top to the rest of the organization as mentioned by Spreitzer.

However, this is only uni-directional from what I understand from the article. In my opinion, communication should be bi-directional. This means that those at the top have to listen to and act upon the views on operational issues of those in the front line, particularly ideas for performance improvement. Only by doing so, the process of empowerment will be greatly enhanced as the employees now feel that their opinions are being listened to and valued by the management. There are two other aspects that contribute to the success of empowerment. They are namely providing adequate resources and rewards for the employee.

It is important that with the devolution of responsibility, there is devolution of resources. To empower without adequate resources is only likely to cause stress on employees. Appropriate rewards as mentioned above in my discussion on operant conditioning, is also an important element in facilitating employee empowerment in an organization. Reward systems based on individual performance with scant regard for overall organizational performance are not conducive to empowerment. In conclusion, Quinn and Spreitzer’s work has led me to investigate the linkages between many areas of studies.

I have come to realize how the notion of mechanical and organic empowerment is in relation to how an organization is structurally organized. Secondly, succumbing to organization’s empowerment efforts could be because one is facing a stumbling block and not because the organization has done a good job in empowering them. Thirdly, the link between motivation and empowerment is great. This is evident as I suggested how Maslow and Herzberg’s theory is in relation to the cycle of empowerment. Fourthly, I have suggested how disempowerment can be avoided if proper reinforcement actions can be performed by the organization.

Lastly, I added on to what Spreitzer consider as the organizational characteristics that facilitate employee empowerment. On the whole, looking at this article in depth has allowed me to see a lot of issues that will not surface if I had simply read for the sake of reading. By doing this assignment, it has also enabled me to understand the whole empowerment process better. I hope that in future, I will be able to utilize all the things that I have learnt into my work and be a manager that is able to empower and delegate very