It was leadership experts John Maxwell and Jim Dornan who said When you empower people, you’re not influencing just them; you’re influencing all the people they influence. But, what exactly is empowerment? It is a buzz word that we hear all the time, but what does it really mean? Well, the word empowerment can be defined as to give the ability to. So, when we empower someone we are actually giving them the ability to do something.
The problem with empowerment is in how we give it to someone. We walk up to team member Jane and we say, Jane, project ABC is now your baby. It is your project. Make it happen. Oh, by the way, if you need to make any changes, then come check with me first. Do you see what just happened? We just handcuffed Jane. We gave her the responsibility for project ABC but we didnt give her any authority. That is not empowerment.
Empowerment is actually an equation. It is not an equation original with me but very accurate and very powerful.
Empowerment = Responsibility + Authority
That is true empowerment. We give Jane the ability to do project ABC by not only giving her responsibility but also the authority to make decisions to make it happen. That not only empowers her but also begins developing her leadership skills. It also frees us up so that we can focus on the things that only we can do. We must never micro-manage people. When we empower Jane, it frees her and us to be our best. It also makes the team stronger. We become a leadership focused team where we are developing everyones leadership abilities.
You might be saying, But what if Jane messes up? If she does, that is not a big deal. Use it as a teachable moment. We all mess up from time to time. When we learn from our mistakes, they actually make us stronger and draw us closer to our goals completion.
Another point to remember is that we cant empower every team member the same way. Why? Because not everyone has the same experience or gifts. If we over-empower someone then they are over their head and they begin to drown. I have seen this happen and it not only is devastating for the team member but also the team. Everyone is an individual and we must lead them to success at their own pace. Help each member on your team be the best they can be..and your success (and theirs) is secure.
So, how do we do this? Well, we start with what are the qualifications to empower. Do we have the qualifications to empower this team member? It is a good question. Lets explore the answer together. There are four qualifications that I believe must be present in order to effectively empower someone.
One, position. Fred Smith said, Who can give permission for another to succeed? A person in authority. Others can encourage, but permission comes only from an authority figure: a parent, boss, or pastor. Mr. Smith is right. Are you a person of authority with this person you seek to empower? If not, you cant empower them. You can motivate and inspire them but not empower them. You must have the position to truly empower someone.
Two, relationship. You must have some sort of a relationship with them. If they have very little contact with you, then you wont be able to effectively empower them. Even if you are their boss, you cant empower them unless you have a working relationship with them.
Three, respect. There has to be a mutual respect with each other for the empowering relationship to be truly effective.
Four, commitment. There needs to be a commitment on your part as a leader. You are in it for the long haul. You dont give them their assignment and then disappear to another project. As a leader, you need to be available. Available for guidance, available for strength, and available for help. The team member needs to be committed to you as their leader and to the organization to do the very best job they can. The commitment to go the extra mile, to give that extra amount.
Those are the four qualifications to empower someone. Once they are in place, we can move to the empowering process itself. There are also four keys to empowering people.
How To Empower People
1. Discover their strengths
2. Develop their strengths
3. Give them a project
4. Help them succeed
First, we have to discover their strengths by observing them. Second, like a great coach, we must help them develop their strengths. Their strength is like a muscle. Without use, it gets weak. With constant use, it grows strong and powerful.
The third thing we must do to empower them is give them a place to use it. A basketball player might have a sweet jump shot but it doesnt really do any good until the coach puts him in the game. We must put them in the game. Once they are in the game, we move to the fourth thing which is to help them succeed. Chances are they will make some errors. Not a big deal. Coach them to success. Even Michael Jordan needed a coach. We all do. A great coach can pull out the best from their team members.
So, do you sometimes feel overwhelmed at work? Too much to do and not enough hands to do it? Or is it you havent empowered those hands to do it? Take a good look at your winning team and start empowering them today.