Empowerment & Knowledge – The Confusion at the Front Line

Does empowerment come before knowledge or knowledge before empowerment? That’s what the CEO of the business asked me.  Never is this confusion more prevalent than with new front line leaders.  Businesses almost always spend time and money training and developing the leadership and managerial skills of their top level leaders and often one or two levels down.

Yet they promote team members into front line leadership positions without training or coaching.  They leave them to learn on the job — the hard way — and label it empowerment.  This presumes that empowerment precedes knowledge. In truth, knowledge breeds empowerment.

Empowerment & Knowledge Image by:KarenWithak

The thinking is that higher level leaders are paid more, have a broader impact on the company and therefore must have ongoing training, mentoring, and coaching.

Consider, however, that empowered incompetent front line leaders have daily impact on end results. They can damage morale and team commitment to quality work.

Empower them with knowledge and know-how.

Develop future front line team leaders especially in these areas:

  1. Turning disagreement into profitable success
  2. Building accountability without micro-managing
  3. Tapping talents of diverse team members for transformational business results
  4. Transitioning from peer to boss (if applicable)

You could choose to hire experienced front line leaders from outside your organization. Yet, if you are going to promote from within, first develop and empower them with knowledge and know-how. The results are amazing.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, delivers training and coaching to diverse organizations from large corporations to governmental agencies, for remarkable bottom line results. For more information on her workshops, KateNasser, The People-Skills Coach.

6 Responses to “Empowerment & Knowledge – The Confusion at the Front Line”

  1. Kate Nasser says:

    Switching between leader and peer — that is quite a balancing act Dan. Takes great skill, insight, and communication prowess. Thanks for your post URL as well.
    Always love when you contribute to my blog.

  2. Three words. “Knowledge Breeds Empowerment.” This is a great way to sum it all up. Empowering front-line employees and supervisors can have great results, only if they have the necessary tools and ammo to excecute the tasks in the first place.

    As Dan previously stated, “Companies should not assume that someone who excels in executing tasks will naturally excel at supervising/managing.” As a front-line agent, I am experiencing this first hand with my team members who are being empowered, but are confusing it as having a supervisory position. They are far from the norm, but i won’t make it my job to make them realize that.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thanks so much — glad you liked my “Knowledge Breeds Empowerment” mantra. I hope that more posts, insights, and discussions will help overcome the problem of sink or swim empowerment. Tools and knowledge make the difference.

  3. Jim Morgan says:

    Right on target, Kate. Companies that don’t train their line leaders have a math problem. They also show the opposite mistake from failing to consider the individual: they fail to consider the needs of the *position*.

    Say you have a small company with an average span of control of six and three levels of management. The boss thinks he or she supervises 258 people. No. He or she supervises six people. The next *position* supervises 36. The line-level position supervises 216.

    So who is in the most need of supervisory skills training? The positions which supervise 16% of the company (6+36)? Or the position that supervises the other 84%?

    Homer Simpson has a word for that: “D’oh!”

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Jim – You are funny. The math is an interesting approach. (I was a math major in college.) Some people might argue with you that the math needs to include financial impact to the company. Nonetheless, I think that everyone (including staff) who are empowered to do something, must be tooled with the knowledge/skills. Knowledge breeds empowerment.

      Thanks for joining this discussion. You added dimension to it.

  4. Hi Kate,

    I completely agree with “Knowledge Breeds Empowerment.” A football coach wouldn’t start a quarterback if he hadn’t had the proper practice – same theory with business.

    New managers need the appropriate tools to help soften the transition from peer to manager, as well as a way to understand their new role.

    Thanks again,

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