On the road to empowerment in the workplace


Posted by Jerome Parisse-Brassens - 05 February, 2016


I am currently working with two clients who suffer from opposite symptoms.

One organisation is drowning in action, people have no time to stop, everything is a priority and there is a frenzy of activity. The other organisation is slow, people take ages to get things done, and they sometimes get bored. Interestingly, I have found that they both suffer from an identical issue: a lack of empowerment.

Road to empowerment in your professional career
What are the signs that empowerment is not quite right in your business?
  • You give people tasks and they quickly come back to you to check, ask questions and make sure they are taking the right direction. They do this once. And then they do it again. And again.
  • You can’t help checking what they are doing. Just in case.
  • Your staff never make decisions. They prefer to ask you first. They believe they need permission.
  • You don’t let your people make decisions. They don’t have all the information.
  • Things become very complex.
  • Everything takes a long time.
  • Communications are one-way. 
Empowerment involves at least two parties: the “empowerer” and the “empoweree”.

The empowerer is the person who gives the other party the right and the autonomy to take certain actions, make decisions and to run things. The empoweree is at the receiving end of the process. For empowerment to be healthy, both parties need to behave in a certain way.

The empowerer needs to make sure they:
  • Clarify the empoweree’s level of responsibility and their role, and to make sure the empoweree understands it.
  • Ensure the empoweree has the skills and tools to do their job.
  • Give direction (but only direction).
  • Exhibit trust: no micromanaging.
  • Recognise their staff for work well done.
On the other hand, the empoweree needs to:
  • Ensure they fully understand their level of responsibility and their role.
  • Not be afraid to push back if they need to.
  • Demand the tools they need to do their work. If they need more skills, make it a priority.
  • Take responsibility – Without responsibility, there is no accountability, and without accountability there is no empowerment.
  • Trust themselves before they demand of others to trust them.

The above behaviours are underpinned by a number of beliefs. It is critical to identify those beliefs, as they will be the target for change if you want to improve the level of empowerment in the workplace. The table below illustrates some of the possible beliefs that you can find in your business.

People learn and improve by being given enough room to make mistakes. Mistakes are a great way to learn.
My job is to help my people become more successful. I am expected to make the right decisions with the right information.
I have a different job to my staff, so if I step in and do their job I am not doing my own. I am trusted.

I don’t need permission.

Empowerment has a lot to do with leadership qualities: caring, trusting, mentoring/coaching and learning. It is the opposite of control. In real life, many leaders find themselves somewhere in-between empowerment and control. Many are often not even aware of how empowering or controlling they are, and therefore how much their behaviour releases - or holds back - the potential of their staff.

How tight is your grip? Taking a moment to assess where you are on the road to empowerment can not only unlock the potential in others, but also the potential within yourself. A vital step, and one which might just hold the key to growth and success.
How empowering are you?


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Topics: Leadership, Behaviour management, Culture management, Empowerment

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