Bergdahl Blogs: What Would Sam Walton Do #4 – EMPOWERMENT

“You’ve got to give folks responsibility, you’ve got to trust them, then you’ve got to check on them.”    Sam Walton

Empower Your Managers and Employees to Serve Your Customers

Walmart refers to its employees as “associates” which is because Sam Walton wanted his employees to be his business partners.  This management and associate partnership at Walmart creates higher level expectations (for managers and employees) then what is traditionally expected of managers and employees in most companies.  Mr. Sam expected all of his employees to think like business owners in their daily interactions with customers.  In order to instill an “ownership mentality” across all of Walmart’s 2.3 million employees meant he also needed to instill an “empowerment mentality”.  By empowering his people, Sam Walton gave every member of his team the decision making authority necessary to provide superior customer service without the need for management intervention.   He discovered that employee empowerment, ownership and synergy go hand-in-hand.  This is the cultural secret behind how Walmart has achieved such monumental success in the marketplace.

The idea behind empowering people, in a business context, is pushing decision-making downward which allows the people closest to the customer to efficiently and effectively do their jobs.  It is about unleashing the pent up potential in your people.  From a leadership perspective company managers must relinquish the urge to micromanage people, and situations, by learning to trust employees to make the right decisions, follow company policies, and do what’s right for customers.  Tapping into the intellectual horsepower of everyone on his store and distribution center team allowed Sam Walton to achieve his ultimate goal, which was the achievement of team synergy.  He knew that once empowered individuals and teams of empowered employees are trusted to do their jobs, great things begin to happen.  He discovered that when done effectively, empowerment creates a win-win-win scenario for customers, employees and the company.   

By empowering people Sam Walton created a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace allowing Walmart to outperform its competitors.  By pushing decision making downward, Mr. Sam gave local managers and employees the responsibility and authority they needed to more effectively run their businesses and serve their local shoppers.  

The ultimate goal of Sam Walton’s “employee empowerment philosophy” was actually quite ingenious and incredibly simple:  to meet and exceed the expectations of Walmart’s customers in communities around the world; in the process he wanted Walmart to become known for providing legendary service!  

What Would Sam Walton Do #4 – EMPOWERMENT:  Sam Walton’s recommendation to other business leaders would be: “Empower Your Employees to Serve Your Customers”!

Your team can learn more about “Walmart’s Employee Empowerment Philosophies” from Michael Bergdahl’s book and speech titled:  PUTTING YOUR EMPLOYEES FIRST.

Michael Bergdahl is the author of 5 books and he is an international keynote speaker and master class leader. He worked with Sam Walton and he is an expert on Walmart’s Best Leadership Practices.

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