Book Summary: "Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment" by William C Byham

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Zapp! is not a recent book. In fact, it was written 21 years ago. But its concepts about employee empowerment hold up very well in today’s challenging work environment.

Employee motivation is often a difficult idea to truly grasp, yet alone to influence and leverage. Yet, if companies are to continuously improve, as is necessary for survival and success, everyone in the organization needs to be engaged. Byham writes that people with this engagement (those who are “zapped”) have “responsibility, a sense of ownership, satisfaction in accomplishments, power over what and how things are done, recognition for their ideas, and the knowledge that they’re important to the organization.” It is important to understand that this engagement in constant improvement can not be imposed or forced on employees (termed being “sapped”); it is only fully achieved by empowering them.

Do these characteristics describe your workplace?

– Management talks about doing a better job and only gets blank stares in return.

– Hardly anyone get excited about work and everybody does just enough to get by.

– Whenever management tries to motivate employees, the results are mixed and short-lived.

– The general attitude is: Don’t do anything you don’t have to do. Then do as little as possible.

– Nobody cares about improvements; they’re all afraid of change.

If so, then your employees need to be “zapped.” Zapp is a force that energizes people.

Have some of these techniques and “programs” been tried in your organization?

– Pep talks

– Job enrichment

– Quality circles and work teams

– Suggestion systems

– Participative management

– More training

– And lots of other programs

If so, then your employees need to be “zapped.” Zapp is a key to success for new ideas and programs. Zapp is the giving of power, while Sapp is the taking of power.

There are three steps of Zapp:

1st Step of Zapp: Maintain Self-Esteem. Help employees feel confident and satisfied in the work they do.

2nd Step of Zapp: Listen and Respond with Empathy. Understand their needs and concerns, and don’t assume that you know what they are.

3rd Step of Zapp: Ask for Help Solving Problems. Involve your employees in solutions. Seek ideas, suggestions, and information.

And the three steps lead to the Soul of Zapp: Offer Help without Taking Responsibility. Managers need to be there for their employees, being supportive and providing encouragement and help, but without taking the employees’ work on themselves or micro-managing them.

For Zapp to work, people need:

1. Direction, consisting of key result areas (the directions we want to go), measurements (ways we know we are moving in the right direction), and goals (something to tell us if we’re there yet).

2. Knowledge, including job skills, training, information, and specific goals.

3. Resources, such as tools, materials, facilities, and money.

4. Support, including approval, coaching, constant feedback, and encouragement.

It’s easy to “sapp” people. But having Zapped! employees is difficult: it takes time, energy and a belief that the organization is only as good as its people. If you truly desire continuous improvement and the opportunity to reach your loftiest goals, your organization needs to get Zapped!