Empowered Execution Keeps Employees Happy (And Makes Work Easier)


Today’s employees aren’t content to see work as a transactional relationship. The idea of putting in hours in exchange for a paycheck doesn’t keep them satisfied. Instead, it spreads the seeds of discontentment that lead to presenteeism, absenteeism, and quitting. If you’re in a leadership position, you need to rethink your business model or risk losing your strongest performers.

How bad is the general feeling of unhappiness among modern workers? Gallup has studied the phenomenon of employee engagement for years. As of 2022, engagement levels fell to 32%, mirroring the low levels seen immediately after the pandemic. Companies can’t afford this trend to continue. Constantly turning over staff isn’t just expensive. It’s also demoralizing for those who stay—and may encourage them to leave.

The New York Times dug deep into the reasons so many workers keep quitting. What the authors discovered is that resigning can have a snowball effect. With each successive “quit”, the remaining employees feel less tethered to the organizational whole. As a result, more workers consider making the leap to greener pastures. One poll showed nearly six out of 10 employees admitted seeing a coworker lead made them want to follow suit.

This is dire, particularly if you’re trying to compete in a fast-paced market. Nevertheless, you have the ability to reverse course and start fostering a workplace filled with happier employees. You can start immediately by learning more about Empowered Execution and how to implement it in your company.

Retired General Stanley McChrystal’s Revolutionary Leadership Approach

Starting during his time in combat, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal knew to get the most out of a group of people aiming to achieve the same goal, they had to operate as a team. McChrystal developed a new model for leading organizations that brought people together as a Team of Teams®, employing tactics that allowed his teams to be highly adaptable.

This Team of Teams® framework meant organizations—no matter their size or mission—could communicate with greater speed, inclusion, and transparency while having the ability to adjust and adapt in conjunction with changes to the operating environment or the challenge at hand.

To achieve adaptability, General McChrystal resolved to share information laterally as well as vertically. Gone was the top-down information-sharing model. At each and every level, the organization empowered teammates with authority. They had the ability to make decisions they believed would advance the team’s cause.

This took away wait times and cleared obstacles, ultimately leading to democratized information sharing by quickly disseminating information not just up the chain of command but across it to develop a shared consciousness among the entire team.

As a result, the concept of empowered execution came to life. When everyone in your organization embraces an empowered execution mindset, projects can be accomplished at greater speeds with less time wasted. At the same time, you can encourage more employee engagement. This is borne out by statistics from McChrystal Group, a firm founded by General McChrystal focused on making teams work. McChrystal Group’s research discovered that workers who self-identify as feeling empowered in their roles are 36% more likely to feel a sense of shared ownership in their company’s outcomes.

Why Empowered Execution Works to Boost Worker Fulfillment

So what is it about empowered execution that makes it so effective? There are several key elements that combine to combat everything from mass resignations to widespread employee ennui.

1. Employees feel trusted.

By empowering your workers, you’re essentially telling them, “I believe you will make the best decision.”

This can be a watershed moment, especially for workers who have had limited authority. A recent study shows that although 83% of employees say they trust their personnel departments, this doesn’t tell the entire story. Tellingly, roughly half of workers in the study said they have kept quiet about something out of fear of on-the-job retribution.

You can’t afford to have a team of people who withhold information or worry about being forthright. Therefore, you must operate transparently, as evidenced by the organizations McChrystal Group has transformed enabling them to work together as a high-performing Team of Teams®. Share data points, talk about goals, and let your team members execute plans.

When you break down trust barriers, you increase your chances of being able to maneuver rapidly as an organization. As an added perk, your workers experience the psychological safety needed in trusting relationships.

2. Employees begin to think like owners.

What would happen if every worker on your team began to think like an entrepreneur or CEO? Chances are strong that tasks would be completed on time and with more passion. They wouldn’t be shoved to the side or overlooked. On the contrary, every responsibility would be treated as essential.

Empowered execution fosters more ownership across the board in your organization. Though you’re not actually making everyone an executive, you’re giving them the ability to think (and proceed) like one. As a result, you may find that your business is able to adapt to succeed in evolving situations. Be sure to watch and see who takes up the “think like an owner” reins the most. They’re your next-generation leaders in the making.

3. Employees feel more freedom and independence.

One of the biggest roadblocks many workers face is feeling like they’re micromanaged. Micromanagement destroys morale and productivity. With empowered execution, micromanagement isn’t possible. Consequently, workers have the freedom to go forward and get things done as they see fit.

As you might imagine, this benefit to empowered execution can be incredibly helpful if you have remote or hybrid employees. If you can’t see your workers some or all of the time, you must give them the opportunity to take chances and be independent. Otherwise, you risk losing them to another company that’s more forward-thinking.

4. Employees sense that they’re part of a shared vision.

It’s much easier for employees to stay attached to their employers when they share a greater vision. When you empower your staff, you make them part of the vision you’re creating. As one case study demonstrated, sharing a common vision across a workforce can cut down on attrition and improve profitability.

Don’t have a vision statement in place? Now is the ideal time to get one started with the help of everyone on your team.

Collaborating on a vision you can all get behind is a foundational element of building empowered execution among your team. While you’re at it, you may want to rethink your mission statement and purpose to ensure cohesiveness and that it aligns with your organization’s purpose and values.

Why run your business using old-school methods when you’re trying to be a future-focused organization? To build a true community and stronger culture, try your hand at empowered execution. It’s works on the battlefield. It’ll work in and beyond the boardroom, too.

Featured Image Credit: Christina Morillo; Pexels.com. Thank you!

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.