Empower or Enable

April 23 2017
By: Terry L. Mathis

I was working with a client who recently empowered his workers to stop work if they considered it unsafe. But his employees were not utilizing this new authority, and he wanted me to find out why. All it took was to ask the workers to find they were unsure about how to determine what level of risk warranted stopping work and wanted to defer to their supervisors to make such a decision. This is a good example of the difference between empowering and enabling. Empower or Enable If you want workers to stop unsafe jobs, teach them how to determine when a job is unsafe and give them a standard by which they make a yes-or-no decision rather than a subjective evaluation.

Any time you empower, make sure you also enable. W. Edwards Deming said, "It is not enough to do your best! You have to know what to do and THEN do your best."

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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