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 Conversations Toward a New World View: Fanning The Fire Within 
 
Interview with Stephen Covey PhD
   as interviewed by Russell E. DiCarlo

DiCarlo: It seems like it would take an awful lot of time to create an empowering organization...why do it?

Covey: Simple, we won't survive if we don't. The global marketplace has changed everything. You cannot produce quality without having people who are empowered to be, as Rosabeth Moss Kanter puts it, customer-focused, fast, friendly and flexible. You cannot compete. So your organization will not make it. This is going to happen in government, it's going to happen in hospitals and it's going to happen in schools as well as businesses. This wouldn't be the case if we didn't have the global marketplace, because if you are in a local marketplace you are about as good as your competitor is dumb. So if your competitor is not empowering its employees, you can do really well with the business.

Another reason to empower is to produce a responsible citizenry. If families for example, don't empower their kids they won't be contributing members of our society. They will be consumers rather than producers and if we have a society of consumers and not producers, there will be nothing left to consume.

DiCarlo: What are the conditions that enable empowerment to take place?

Covey: The first condition is trustworthiness, which consists of both character and competence. Character refers to a person's integrity, maturity, and what I call the abundance mentality. By competency I mean, I mean one's technical skills and conceptual skills, which allows one to see the "Big Picture"-how all the pieces fit together. They also need to develop the skills of interdependency, which means that you think ecologically and you act in terms of "complimentary teams" and synergy rather than isolated individuals and compromise.

The second condition is the trust that flows out of the first condition. When people can be trusted that means they are able to come through and deliver. They have the integrity. They are dependable. They keep their commitments. They think win-win or no deal. They apologize when they make mistakes. They always seek first to understand other people or to understand the situation before seeking to be understood. They learn how to give and receive feedback with magnanimity and appreciation and not be offended by it. They make these kinds of what I call "deposits" into the emotional bank account that each of us has with others.

DiCarlo: And the third condition....?

Covey: Well, if you have the kind of trust I've described, it enables people to develop the third condition of empowerment, which I call win-win performance agreements. This basically means that there is a mutual understanding and commitment between the people involved-between team and company or a supplier and a company or a customer and a company-surrounding five basic things: desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability and consequences. Purposely left off is method, the "how-to-do-it." That becomes the fourth condition. The how is answered by the people or the team involved so they accomplish the desired results within the guidelines-in any way they want to. That taps into their creativity and resourcefulness. As long as they act within the guidelines, which include ethical principles and laws and mission statement-and any absolutely necessary but as few as possible procedures-then they are empowered.

The fifth condition is to set up structures and systems that reinforce this empowered individual or team. This is the area that is called re-engineering the corporation. This is the main area that people like Deming, and Crosby and Juran focus upon, that is, improving the operational processes. They think the primary problem is not with the people, it's with the programs that people write. I believe that the problem always starts with the programmer, and the people with the scarcity mentality will always implement so-called "win-win" systems in "win-lose" ways. So while I put a lot of value upon structures and systems, for me, the deeper root is the programmer-the one who writes the programs.

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