Department of Animal Science


Date of this Version

December 1997


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XV December 9, 10 and 11, 1997, Rapid City, South Dakota.


Empowerment is a function of systems, attitudes and access. A ranching system is a grouping of subsystems which includes biological, climatic, business, financial and managerial processes. The system may be structured to enable and encourage or to impede empowerment of the team members. Access to ideas, research, training, tools, mentoring, modeling, etc. is vital to high level empowering. If the system is right, then the attitudes of the people involved will determine how much empowerment will take place.

Bosses and managers don't empower people. They enable and facilitate, but people at all levels of reporting are responsible for their own empowerment. Everyone, or nearly everyone, wants to succeed. We who are managers ought to take advantage of that. Give people a chance to succeed and most of them will.

I too often hear comments similar to this, "I don't need to know about people management. After all there's just me. the wife and the three kids." How demeaning! Ranchers with this attitude are missing out on full use of their most valuable resource--the combined human creativity that comes from a unified, integrated team.

As a manager, my job is to ''Create an environment in which people want to excel and then provide the tools, training and freedom to do it.'' Tools can be anything from a shovel or pickup to a set of NRC tables or a computer printout of financial performance. Most managers don't really give the freedom for their people to succeed or excel. They expect the employee or family member to become a robotic extension of themselves rather than an independently thinking, decision making adult. The employee knows the difference. They know if they succeeded or if the boss succeeded for them. If the boss continually has all the successes, he may have the employee's muscle; but he will never have his heart and mind.

The system and its structure creates the environment for empowerment. The individual's attitude opens the mind, provides the desire and releases the energy. Access provides the information, training, tools, opportunity, observation etc. that leads to knowledge, analysis, wisdom, judgement, better decisions and finally power. Power is earned by making a high proportion of good decisions.