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What exactly does Empowerment mean in the way it gets used these days?
Empowerment. You might take it to mean:
'I want my people to be empowered.'
On the other hand I might think it means:
'I want to be empowered in my job.'
Both of us will mean something completely different when we use the 'empowerment' word.
From a manager's point of view it usually means they want their staff to:
- be more proactive
- take increased responsibility
- bring solutions, not problems.
To employees it usually means being:
- given more autonomy
- left alone to sort things out on their own
- able to make decisions
On the surface, those two points of view look compatible.
However, often they aren't.
You see, empowerment is a dangerous thing.
What if the other person doesn't want what I want?
What if they go off on some wild tangent that wasn't in my original game plan?
What if once they get empowered they start doing things differently?
When we work within business we think about empowerment as being enlightened beyond your time.
It's going beyond the norm, it's going beyond the traditional ways of doing things, it goes beyond the right way of doing things, but looking at how to move things forward, with the least amount of fuss and difficulty.
When you try to squash something into the 'right way' of doing things, or to procedures that have to follow a rigid structure, then you'll get into trouble.
However good procedures are, rigid adherence to any kind of process takes away creativity and innovation from individuals.
To empower you need to develop the creativity that people already have and perhaps aren't fully utilising.
You want to get people to a place where they feel able to suggest and offer things, to doing things, rather than waiting to be told what to do.
We also define it as active participation, involvement, accountability, encouragement, setting boundaries and expectations, listening to and acknowledging people's ideas.
In its simplest form, empowerment is treating people as adults whatever their role is, no matter where they sit in the hierarchy.
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