YOU “EMPOWERED” THEM: 5 Reasons They Aren’t Taking Ownership -Yet!

magic empowerment wand

Leaders, can you relate to this?

Empowerment is one of your core values. It hangs on walls throughout your building.

You’ve hosted meetings, waved your magic empowerment wand and reminded people that they are encouraged to a take greater level of ownership in your business.

However, for the most part your employees aren’t responding.

Below are 5 reasons they aren’t taking ownership –yet!

  1. Your words haven’t made an impact yet.

Ken Blanchard says that you must impact people’s KNOWLEDGE, before you can impact their ATTITUDE, and you must impact their ATTITUDE before their BEHAVIOR changes.

Marketing theory says that someone has to hear the same message at least 7 times before you begin to impact their knowledge.

So people need to hear your message at least 21 times before it begins to impact their knowledge, attitude and behavior. (Keeping in mind that every person is not physically or mentally present each time you say something.)


  • Activate learning for all – People have different learning styles: So intentionally involve as many senses as possible when you empower them. Use words, music, video, food, activities…
  • Model the behavior you wish to see. (See more in tips #5 & 6)
  1. They don’t believe you.

Their previous work experiences have convinced them that speaking truth to power will create any combination of risks:

  • Their position on the team
  • How their boss will treat them
  • How secure their jobs will be


  • Share stories of times that you and each member of your leadership team had the courage to lead up, what happened, and what you learned.  Emphasize how each one of them knows something that others don’t.  Ideas to reduce risk and expenses, increase revenue and efficiency, improve teamwork and customer service…  All help the company grow and increase job security.
  • (See TIPS #5 & 6 as well!)
  1. They don’t know how.

Even if they see a huge opportunity, they may not know how to approach you.  (Someone with a steady behavioral style may struggle to speak to someone with a dominant behavioral style.)

When they have the courage to approach you, and you respond favorably – they may still not know how to start their project.


  • Invest in DiSC Training and learn to identify and understand different behavior styles so you can adjust to the style of the person you are speaking to.
  • Learn Situational Leadership so you can provide the right balance of clear direction and support. (I am naturally supportive, and learned that when I cheered employees on that needed clear direction, I wasn’t providing the help they needed. Which confused them and stalled their ability to move to the next step. Learning to recognize what they needed most was a huge leadership step for me.)
  1. The people you surround yourself with.

Be very aware of the words and actions of the executive team. It is not uncommon for a titled leader to nod in agreement in your presence and then undermine your desire to create an empowered culture when you are not around.

Traditionalists and new hires do this if they don’t understand the value of empowerment and if they worry about losing their power and authority.

Manipulators do this because they fear being seen for who they really are.


  • Hire wisely. If that prospective leader has great experience but can’t share how they’ve leveraged empowerment to make a greater difference in previous organizations – dig deeper.   Are they opposed to empowered cultures or just lacking experience? Are they willing to share their “power” with others to become a better leader and build a more successful organization?
  • Don’t seal yourself off. Never allow yourself to be influenced by only one person or group of people. Stay in close contact with people at all levels of your organization. Watch and listen. (See #5 & 6 as well!)
  1. The processes you don’t have in place.

To create a truly empowered organization you need processes in place that hold titled leaders accountable to provide clear answers to the suggestions of employees.


  • Implement a simple white paper process and teach everyone in the organization where the forms are and how to do it.
  • Respond consistently. Executives meet monthly to review and respond to the employee suggestions.
    • Yes – As much as possible let those that suggested the idea, own the project and give them a sponsor in titled leadership to help them take next steps.
    • More information needed – be specific about what information is needed yet and give them suggested contacts.
    • No – Honor their initiative, be as specific as possible about why the idea won’t work at this time, and let them know when or if they should bring this idea forward again in the future.
  1. Celebrate!

Honor, celebrate and reward those that take the initiative to grow your company.


In all employee meetings

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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7 thoughts on “YOU “EMPOWERED” THEM: 5 Reasons They Aren’t Taking Ownership -Yet!

  1. A great article, Chery! You make such an important point about the different ways that people learn. Some are more visually oriented, or sound oriented, and we need to change our language to reflect that. Thanks so much and I will share widely.

  2. I love your article Chery! Becoming empowered has to come from within. We sometimes think we can motivate people to do things but they have to want to do it themselves to make it happen. All your points are excellent especially about the impact of sharing stories. I think that when we are able to be vulnerable by sharing our stories of failure and missteps, we can help others take accountability for their mistakes and challenges too.

    Thanks Chery!

    • Thank you Terri! Agreed! It is so important for titled leaders to share their failures and learning’s. A co-worker told me about a time the new CEO of the company had stood in front of all the employees and told them about a time she made an uninformed decision with the best of intentions. And then shared how badly that decision impacted the company and ultimately several employees lives when they were laid off. She then shared what that experience taught her and promised to never make that mistake again. That was a trust-building moment for my co-worker who did not give trust to anyone easily. I heard this story years after it happened. Such a powerful example of the impact of a leader’s vulnerability.

  3. Glad to see story telling in your list. That’s a skill I’m trying to learn. Also the recommendation for DISC. If you look at Everything DiSC Work of Leaders you get both the general DiSC overview, but also more help with your leadership style. (Analysis, not story-telling is more my leadership strength. Getting alignment around my vision can’t happen unless I keep finding new and powerful ways to tell the story behind it and the story of its future.)

    • Kristeen, You make such an important point. Leaders gain support and momentum when people understand where they are going, and can picture themselves being an important part of the future you are trying to create. Your team is blessed to have a leader that understands her strengths and opportunities for growth.