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Marketplace Insights

One of the most important assets you can have in a Native business or organization is your employees. A good business owner, manager or leader will recognize that their success depends on how well they interact with their employees. Empowering a highly productive work force should be one of your first goals in developing a successful organization.

Most Native workers are extremely loyal and given the right environment can be nurtured to become highly productive team members. This becomes important when you understand that the success of your business or organization will depend on the whole staff or work force to accomplish, in most cases one person cannot do it alone.

Unfortunately when a manager chooses to use a more authoritative and controlling management style, they can alienate their staff and/or suppress the effectiveness of their employees. Treating staff more like children than adults can easily result in a dependant and unproductive workforce.

There are things you can do as a manager, business owner or tribal leader that will help to support the development of a productive work force that is empowered to do their job well. It may take some effort if your management or leadership style is different from what is recommend, but the success of your organization may be well worth the change.

Nurture independence – job autonomy (the ability to do one’s job without interference) is what most employees seek. Micro-management and looking over someone’s shoulder can be a great distraction to employees trying to do their job. If you can, focus on getting the job done, rather than how it gets done. There can be many ways to accomplish a goal.

Allow creativity – when given the opportunity, most of us want to explore our ideas and think of ways to improve our processes. Work place creativity can support an organization’s success by helping to overcome problems, it can bring something new and exciting to your business or organization, and help find better ways to achieve your goals.

Expect the best – when happy and motivated most people will want to put forth their best. When we feel supported it gives us more confidence to go beyond our comfort zone. However, it is important that you believe in your employees and appreciate all their efforts, remember to communicate to them the confidence you have in their ability to perform well.

Focus on the positive – it is important to bring attention to what is positive in your workplace, rather than just dealing with the negative aspects. Think of how it makes one feel when they are constantly being criticized? Addressing only problem issues can become overwhelming to your staff and bring down the overall morale.

Learning to empower people in our lives, not just our work place, can be a liberating experience. The goal should be teaching people to function independently, rather than being our work force, it is our family, or our community members. We need to break away from suppressive behavior and encourage those in our reach with the ability to thrive and grow to be future business and community leaders. This will only happen if they are allowed the room to experience growth and development on their own terms. We need strong and capable Native people, future leaders that will help to build a strong and prosperous future for our tribal businesses and nations.

Lucinda Hughes-Juan has many years of teaching and training in the fields of business and management, with a focus on the cultural dynamics in Native businesses and organizations. She is an enrolled member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. She holds an MBA in global management, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in business and organizational management. E-mail her at