The Culture of Empowerment

28 Feb 2019 4:53 PM | Rance Greene

This week I took my car to get the oil changed. I arrived thirty minutes before they closed and there was a line. One of the employees came over to my car. He wasn't scowling. He wasn't shaking his head or pointing for me to leave. I rolled down my window and he greeted me with a big smile.


"What can we do for you today?"


"Man, he's chipper," I thought. "Just an oil change."


"Great, just pull up behind that silver car. Here's a bottle of water for you while you wait!"


"Wow, a smile and a bottle of water. This must be the friendly guy of the garage, or the manager." But I was wrong. Everybody was friendly! And the smiling man actually worked on my car! He seemed genuinely happy that my type of oil was on sale that day. All of the employees were calling out to one another in oil change language:


"GTX 30 in bay number three!" "Customer needs washer fluid top off!"


Before I left, he asked if he could reset the oil change alert in my car. "Sure!" He reset it.


"We appreciate your business. I'm going to lead you out of here. Hope you have a great day." Then he walked to the front of the car, gave his buddies a friendly shout that a car was leaving the bay and motioned me to move forward. There's a sign just outside the garage that reads, "Honk if you got great service." I think everybody honks when they leave that place.


Experiences like that make me think, "That didn't happen on accident." Every one of those employees were in sync. They were on the same page.

They were part of some kind of amazing oil-changing garage culture.

And they all had something in common. Something so evident that even the grumpiest customers had to admit: they cared. And it wasn't because they were a bunch of caring technicians who happened to get hired at the same time by the same garage. They were actually empowered to care.


I could imagine any one of those men employed by a different garage where they were doing exactly the same job and hating it. When that employee offered me the bottle of water, it was more than obligatory. It was like he was empowered to give that bottle of water with a sincere desire to meet my need. How does that happen? It's the culture, of course, but how does that culture exist? How did it ever come to be?


Other companies, like this oil change place, who are known for their culture, seemed to have also found the key: empower your people to care. When you read the story of a Southwest Airlines employee personally delivering lost baggage to a customer who needed special shoes to run an off-road race, or the Nordie (Nordstrom employee) who cheerfully gift-wrapped a product a customer bought at Macy's (without getting fired), there is no way to explain such behavior except that these employees were empowered to care for their customers. But all that caring has to start somewhere. From the very top. Leadership has to care about employees so employees can care about their customers. And it works. Turns out investing in your people is actually also profitable.


Talent development serves a similar role. We empower. We empower leaders to care about their employees and lead them effectively. We empower customer-facing employees to care for clients. We train, we advocate, we improve business by caring for the people. ATD Dallas's reason for existence reflects the role all of us play in talent development:


We empower people who are changing their organizations for good.


We all reap the benefits of an organization that empowers us to care. Care for one another as a community of TD professionals, and care for the people we work with day-to-day. We've got a good thing going.

At February's packed-out Happy Hour event, it was a pleasure to see familiar faces and meet some new friends, like Lara Azcona, an educator with an amazing background of change management and software engineering who is currently looking for an opportunity to transition into talent development/change management. Andrew Esguerra is a transplant from California, and is taking advantage of his corporate membership with ATD Dallas through his company, Toyota. I also had a chance to speak with Tom McGehee, owner of WaveChanger, who has a rich history in business and facilitating collaboration. The ATD Dallas community is a rich and diverse community of people who truly care.

This month, we're partnering with another company who believes in investing in their own people. Join us on the morning of March 19 for Breakfast with the C-Suite. VARIDESK's Jeff Lamb (President & COO) and Megan Detz (CPO) are speaking on Growth In a People First Culture. You'll also get a tour of VARIDESK's headquarters.


Today, the inimitable Jeremy Medrano, Creative Director at Infinitude, is headlining our Learning Technology Special Interest Group. If you're not a graphic designer and you need to design graphics, scoot over to the Girl Scout's headquarters for an amazing session with Jeremy. If you missed him, check out the Design Basics tips from my eLearning Guild colleague, Bianca Woods. We all need a little design help sometimes.

Join Jan Moorman on March 25 for Networking for Introverts (and others too) at our Career Development event at Dallas Baptist University north campus. 

Degreed is coming! Already, many of our volunteers are enjoying Degreed's platform of curated learning, and getting it ready for the community-wide launch. One thing you can do now to prepare, is make sure ATD Dallas has the email address you want to use for your personal Degreed account. If the email you want to use for Degreed is different than the email we have on file for ATD Dallas, email with "Degreed email" in the subject line and let us know the email you want to use for your Degreed account. For instance, you may already have an account with your company and want to set up your ATD Dallas account on your personal email. Otherwise, you're set!

If you'd like to experience the ATD Dallas culture and find out just how great it can be, give back. Serve, plan, lead, mentor, speak. Like my colleague, Glenn Smith, there's something you love to do and there's a place here for you to enjoy it. Now that you're part of us, take time to contribute to a culture that empowers others. Complete a volunteer form. We'll reach out to you and connect you to our community.  


Rance Greene

ATD Dallas President

March 1, 2019


  • 07 Apr 2020 3:31 AM | alfarouk


14070 Proton Rd. - Suite 100
Dallas, TX 75244


Phone: 972-233-9107 ex. 224

Fax: 972-490-4219

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