A mindset of empowerment means you choose ownership in your job. This one is critical because it has to do with the way you serve and interact with customers. It’s the difference between sitting idly on the sidelines waiting for someone to tell you what to do and choosing to get in the game on your own initiative. The experience customers have with a business or brand will live or die based on how empowered their employees are to step in and step up for the customers they’re serving.
I read a story once about a Disney employee’s first day on the job that illustrates this well. This young man was hired by the park to be an engineer. Of course, he assumed on his first day that he would be firmly planted in front of a computer screen. Much to his surprise, the manager started the day walking this guy through the park itself.
Within the first few steps, the manager approached a piece of trash on the ground. He stopped, picked it up, put it in his pocket, and turned to the new employee, saying, “Every team member is responsible for trash.” Just like that, the engineer realized he would also be a garbageman at Disney.
Just a few minutes later, they came upon a child who had dropped his ice cream cone. The manager instructed the new employee to get a free replacement cone for the child. Was the engineer going to be in food service at Disney, too? After getting the cone, he asked the manager why they didn’t ask another park employee who actually worked in food services to do it. The manager replied, “We’re all responsible for keeping the park clean and making sure each guest has a magical experience.”
Here’s the point: This engineer wasn’t hired to be on the frontlines with customers. On paper, his role wasn’t to do things like pick up trash or replace ice cream cones. But Disney made a practice of empowering their employees to enhance the customer experience in every moment and in every role. There, every employee is responsible for one thing: making sure each guest has a magical experience. And while most of the time that meant serving as an engineer and designing theme park rides that were sure to bring smiles, for this particular employee it also meant stepping in and helping out where he saw a need in any part of the park.
It meant choosing a mindset of empowerment.
Some of you will find this really easy. Because you work for organizations and brands that have empowered you to do what needs to be done. You feel equipped and encouraged to take ownership at your job in any place you see the need.
But others of you don’t feel that same freedom. You may not have much choice in the way decisions are made, or responsibilities are delegated, or customers are served. You don’t feel empowered to do much of anything other than the job in front of you.
This is where the mindset is key! Remember, you may not be able to control much on the outside, but you can control what’s happening on the inside. You can choose to be empowered and do what’s in your realm of possibility to make the experience better at work, even in the smallest of ways.
I know of a bank teller at a small, local bank who didn’t always feel empowered in her job. She was there to handle transactions and be kind to customers, and that was pretty much it. One day, she discovered one of her regular customers was about to overdraw his account for the first time. This was unusual, as this man had never run into this issue in the course of banking with them. Could she have left it there and let him overdraw? Of course! But instead, she chose to show up with an empowered mindset, and that ended up making all the difference to this customer.
She went above and beyond. She found out that the mailbox where this man usually mailed his checks was broken into, and the funds were stolen. He had no idea that his money was taken, his bills were behind, and he was about to incur overdraft fees. This bank teller looked into the situation, even when it wasn’t technically her job, and it changed the outcome for this man. And I’d bet every dollar in the bank that it changed his customer experience for the better, too!
What would it look like for you to choose to take this kind of ownership at work? To step up and step out to enhance the customer experience in big and small ways? It starts with a mindset of empowerment.