The only way to “Empower”​ someone

Time and again we hear professionals talk about empowering a being and how it’s the right way to go. How empowering a gender, race, team member or an organisation helps in improving accountability, ownership and peaceful collaboration. How this makes a robust community of respective subject matter to cohabit with shared goals.

Love the idea, it’s marvelous to see many people are embracing these great ideas. With that in mind, I asked handful of them –

How do you empower someone or a group?

 

Majority of the replies had a short pause, usually with a raised eyebrow, followed by a somewhat vague response like “By giving them chance to see the big picture, allowing them to contribute to the greater cause, authorising increased accountability/ownership and removing anything that blocks them”.

Seriously? Isn’t that what we should be doing anyway?

Technically anyone who is claiming to “Empower” someone is not really doing anything productive. Rather they are stopping their own unproductive interference. They are simply backing down from where they shouldn’t have been in the first place and they are taking credit while they do so. *Mind Blown*

Truth you came here to find:

The ONLY way to empower someone, is to stop dis-empowering them.

And stop taking credit while doing so. If we do, we are again not really giving them the credit they deserve while we steal the attention.

A person/group can be “Empowered”, only if they want to be!

The notion of empowering a being or a group also creates an illusion that it’s in our control. Sadly it isn’t. Fact it, if a person/group doesn’t want to be, we cannot really make them. It’s a personality trait where some like to do what they have been told.

What sort of person wouldn’t want to be empowered you ask?

  • “I did what I was asked, ask X who owns it now”. Silos – yes, some do love it and it’s all personal.
  • “Trust me I want to help but last time when I tried, your manager turned on me and requested me to mind my own business” – Fear of rejection.
  • “I told you this wouldn’t work. I can help you if you like? No? Alright then” – Ignorance of Skilled opinion over superiority.
  • “No, don’t want to get involved again. Last time I made a mistake and it affected my bonus. It was not even my domain of work.” – Outdated and demoralising KPIs

What can we do about it? Surely we can do something to Empower as Leaders

There are many ways obviously. I have found the following are good enough to start with –

  • Give them an achievable goal and back off. Support and Serve. Delegate and show trust. Allow failure that can be reversed. Make sure they understand they failed and ask them what they learned from it. REPEAT.
  • Find out what the impediments are and why can’t they remove it themselves. Let them try. If they ask for help, without passing a judgement first sort it out. Revisit on how much more we can/should do to remove the blockers in future. REPEAT.
  • Tailor our KPIs based on Team goals over individual performances. If we really care, let peer pressure handle it and monitor how are they performing as a team.

 

And yes, we should stop empowering people or tell ourselves that we can somehow.

As leaders, create a sustainable culture where people can Empower themselves.