Empowering your Workforce in Increments

I currently mentor a close colleague, who has recently experienced probably the worst example of organisational restructuring and change management that I have witnessed in over forty years!

While he successfully competed and secured a senior management position in the new structure, that badly-handled process has caused significant damage to his belief in the organisation, its vision, mission and values! Likewise, the same is true for many of his colleagues, most of whom I know.

What probably adds to the ire, frustration and anxiety felt by many, is that the organisation sits in the voluntary and community sector. Its mission is to help people and communities develop, grow and become sustainable. Oh, the irony!

Focusing on the Long-term

Why did this happen? Simply put, because decades of traditional management practice take significant effort to destroy! Poor leadership, compounded by poor external HR advice, made for decisions that were more about removing disliked people, rather than about the long-term future of the organisation.

I know, based on 40+ years of experience, that it takes vision, a challenge to outdated values, closer alignment with new values, and open and honest communication and power-sharing to properly lead change.

Additionally, you will need courage, resilience and patience. Your approach will take time, diligence and effort. You must show energy, enthusiasm and determination. Thus far, in my friend’s process, much of that, if all of that has been lacking!

If only, the Board and the CEO understood that the rewards for empowering your workforce are many, and had acted accordingly.

You can share information more openly. Broaden your team’s responsibility and encourage the team to better plan, control and improve processes. Start systems for valuing both group and individual efforts. Coach and help more than instruct.

It looks an enormous task, especially to those steeped in traditional management practice, especially around command and control!

However, I advocate and practice that power-sharing efforts begin with a small group, and build critical mass.

Those efforts follow several necessary steps:
  • Show a compelling vision.
  • Educate people to overcome the ‘old’ values.
  • Prove empowerment by modelling the values and leading by example.
  • Give honest answers to questions about values.
  • Check out the reality of your approach by encouraging honest feedback.
  • Make necessary adjustments based on that feedback.


Once you’re sure it’s working, chose another small group, and build critical mass by repeating the approach!

Try that approach out! You may struggle at first, but you will not be disappointed with the outcome!

If you would like further insight into how best to manage transformational cultural change, please do not hesitate to contact me on john@johnthurlbeck.co.uk – I would be delighted to engage with you.

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