Empower: To give power or authority to; to authorize; to enable to permit.
In one word “trust.” Empowerment is sometimes the blessing or curse of any company. Where there is no empowerment, generally there is bad service, and the quality of the product begs positive attention.
Yesterday, I went into one of my favorite produce markets. I’m a frequent shopper at this market, but, after yesterday, I have some reservations about ever returning. Towards the end of my shopping trip, I came across the most amazing cakes: red velvet, German chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple. The store sold these cakes as wholes and as halves. My eyes finally landed on caramel! Yay!! Oddly enough, the bakery had whole caramel cakes, but not halves. So, I asked the lady behind the baker’s counter if I could have the caramel cake in half. She answered right away.
“We don’t have any. You need to buy what’s there.”
I was taken aback. The other cakes were being sold in halves, so what was so special about this one? I explained that my family is quite small and that an entire cake was a bit much (and a waste, we would never finish it all!). I spoke up.
“Is there a way to have half sliced?”
“I don’t think so.” She replied. She didn’t make an attempt to honor my request. She didn’t even care that I was a customer with over $100 dollars worth of groceries in my cart. It obviously didn’t register that I had options and choices of where I could have shopped. She had not one shred of empathy. This, of course, did not rest well with me. As a professional in the service insudtry, I immediately knew that the issue was not with her–it was with how the store was managed. So, I very nicely asked her if there was anyone else who could help me? She reluctantly told me to wait one moment.
The manager came out, and I asked her the same question. Right away she said, “No problem! to which I replied: ” Well it was a problem a few minutes ago! I asked the manager why the other associate couldn’t do that and she stated,
“She’s not a manager.”
“It’s cake.” I retorted. I had just stood there for 15 minutes begging the other associate for half of a cake and she couldn’t cut it without permission?
I then asked: “How would you feel if I left this entire cart of groceries because you all roughly stole 15 minutes of my life that I will never get back?”
The manager apologized, smiled, and said, “You’re right, it’s cake.” I giggled with her and mentioned that if they trusted and empowered their team just a little, the store would see huge results! Empowerment is good morale booster for the team, and the customers would be pleased, not just content.
How many of us have been in situations where we are working or managing in handcuffs? It is not fun for us or for guests. No one wants to have to wait for a manager. This is what we (hoteliers) have trained and taught travelers, and it is the number one reason why guests will request a manager for the most minute things–things that team members can make decisions on, like late check outs.
A manager’s time needs to be focused on bettering the brand, creating memorable experiences, driving service scores, and revenue, not granting late check outs or extending reservations. While no manager is ever above doing these things, their time can certainly be used doing other things. If we trusted and empowered our team members, we would in turn have happier teams and happier guests. This all starts with the culture of the company. A little trust goes a very long way for morale, and a long way for morale leaves more time for managers and supervisors to work on other things.
Here is a fun fact: The next time you are in a situation where you think you may need a manager…..before you ask for a manager, understand that many times the person in front of you can probably help with requests that are not too big.
For all of the companies and associations who choose not to empower your teams, good luck looking up to see bottom. You will never get ahead, win awards, or drive service scores by not trusting your teams to make decisions on behalf of the client or guest. If the employees are given the tools they need to recover service when there are fractures it only make the company, the GM and bosses look good.