We have talked in this space several times on the meaning of true empowerment and how leaders do it right. We've looked at using Mission Orders to give task and purpose, allowing teammates the freedom to determine their own solutions. We've talked about Education, Opportunity, and Trust being the key elements for life in the "Empowerment Zone." And we've highlighted the "Just Do It" card as a way to strengthen and empower people without them always seeking permission.
Today, I'd like to share with you an example of a company that really lives life fully in the "Empowerment Zone." The company is, "The Nerdery," highlighted in Inc. magazine (Dec 2012 / Jan 2013) for their job creation in this difficult economy. Besides the very appropriate name (the nerd engineer in me is thinking, "Dang, I should have started that company!"), they are taking empowerment of their employees to another level.
The intentions are good. Make people truly believe that they have a stake in the company. Give people the freedom and the responsibility to take any action that betters the organization. Empower employees in a meaningful way so that they know their contribution matters.
The Nerdery gives all of its 400+ employees the title of "Co-President." In doing so, they reveal how serious they are in wanting every member of the team to take ownership, to improve their systems (meetings, benefits, etc.), and to be accountable to each other for performance.
Witness the passion from Luke Bucklin, co-founder of the web development firm before his death in 2010, in an email to his employees:
Our job titles are designed to empower us, not to limit us! Put your business card on the desk in front of you...This card does not define you. you are a Co-President. You are bigger than your defined role, and you are much more than your job title. Play your part -- transcend your job title, be a hero.
Bucklin's successors took this sentiment a step further and implemented his vision for making everyone a Co-President. To be sure, the company invests plenty in ensuring that employees know what this means. Just like the "Just Do It" card, you can't just issue people a blank check for empowerment without ensuring appropriate understanding of their new powers -- and responsibilities. Leaders continuously look for examples of people exercising their responsibilities as Co-Presidents and share them with the rest of the team. Successes are highlighted at every opportunity.
I love the idea of sharing power with employees and empowering them in significant ways. The Co-President title might sound gimmicky, but I am guessing, with the training and constant discussions that people undoubtedly have about the responsibility that comes with this title, that it has real meaning. It sure sounds like it is working for this group of "nerds!"
See if something like this might work with your team. Whatever you do, let's encourage our teammates to embrace Bucklin's philosophy -- we are all bigger than our job title. Find a way to get people to buy in, to feel like their contribution really impacts the performance of the team, and give them the power to do something about it. That's real empowerment. And that is...Leader Business.
P.S. Shoot me a note if you are interested in talking more about empowerment and the building and leading of high performing teams. Without question, these go together. Let's talk about how we can do this with your team!