Empowerment has long been part of the conversation in organisations, but talk isn't enough – the need for the real deal, genuine empowerment, has never been greater.

As more leadership teams wake up to end of the old world hierarchy of command and control, many are finding they lack sufficient skills to empower the more dynamic, agile workplaces of the future – which is often we're we come in. 

But where should this empowerment come from? Is empowerment something to be given by others, or to be taken for ourselves?

This week The Catalyst explores how we can both empower ourselves and empower others.   

I Empower

I can hang on, hoping and waiting to feel empowered by my boss or my organisation, or I can take charge of the one thing that is always in my power, me.

Here are a few things we can do to empower ourselves whatever our situation:

  1. Mind Control
    Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right. Whatever you think you make real for yourself so be mindful of falling into negative thought loops. Think about a situation you are feeling disempowered in at the moment and ask yourself, ‘what do I need to be thinking that would make it easier for me to be empowered?’ and ‘what’s a baby step I can take to make that thought more real for myself’ and then think it and do it.
  2. Get Connected 
    Who are the key influences around you and what is the quality of your relationship? Galvanising the trust and support of others is crucial so invest in the relationships around you and not only at the point you need them. Having regular time carved out in your diary to connect more broadly across the organisation always pays long term.
  3. Focus  
    Control what you can control, influence what’s in others' control and let go of whatever is beyond your control. There is a lot of personal and organisational energy wasted in trying to control things that aren’t within our realm of control. Be really clear with yourself and focus on your own business.

We Empower

If you're a leader of a group of people there are many things you can do to help them feel and therefore behave in an empowered way. Ultimately it’s about diminishing fear in your culture.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Set the where and the why but leave the what and the how to your people
    Organisations need to be certain of where they are heading and why they are going there in order to provide a clear direction of travel and galvanise energy purposefully. Beyond that, rely on the talents of your people to determine what needs to be done and how to do it to move their bit of the business towards that goal 
  2. Provide clarity and rigour in roles and responsibilities
    It’s not enough to have job descriptions, people need to know exactly what they are responsible for and be held accountable for it. Often we find that the lure of being involved in tangible operational activity draws leadership down a level and into things that are not their remit. This is where rigour is needed.
  3. Create a learning culture
    How leaders respond when things don’t work out has a huge impact on how empowered their people are likely to feel. If you want to encourage a growth mindset and an environment where people are willing to stretch themselves and take a risk provide resilience training, coaching and mentoring to help them work through problems and disappointments.

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