Empowerment: The Path to More Responsibilities and Better Results in Less Time
To those of us who are used to empowerment, may it be that we empower people and organizations or that we are empowered by others, it may have become the natural way to conduct daily business. On the other side, to those who are used to a more “traditional” management style (managing top-down), empowerment may look like an esoteric phenomenon. Having to transition to empowering management and leadership style is hence even more disquieting to them. But why?
Knowing the power and the rewards of empowering people and organizations it can be hard to comprehend when you are faced with opposition to transitioning to empowering. I have witnessed this transition in several occasions when I advised clients how to introduce agile software development frameworks thus shifting the organization to a more customer-focused and business driven IT organization. Software development is one of the most innovative areas you can work in. Hence, it is even more surprising to observe that lots of people working in this area are actually skeptical of trying new approaches. It goes like, “I am innovative, so don’t tell me that I have to change the way I am working.” Funny and scary at the same time. One of the most prominent reservation is that people with line responsibility, i.e., having disciplinary authority over other employees, think that transitioning to an empowerment management and leadership style will diminish their responsibility and sphere of influence. Fact is: just the opposite is the case. Empowering your own subordinates yields more power and influence than traditional management and leadership styles. How come? By empowering your subordinates you promote performance. You are no longer sidetracked by micromanagement. You share the necessary information and supply the required resources so that they can do their job. You define the desired outcome; then let go, i.e., let them organize how they work. For it is the result you are interested in. In most cases, this procedure is less time-consuming and less strenuous than micromanaging. You get more for less work. This by itself is a valuable benefit.
So what about decreased responsibility on your part? The truth is that your responsibilities increase when you empower people and organizations. You have to ensure that the empowerees have the information, tools, resources needed to their job. You remove impediments and thus level the path to successful deliveries. This is a huge responsibility. The way you handle this provides you with more influence and authority. By building your team you simultaneously build a foundation for “power” and control. Not in the negative sense, but in a positive and empowering way. You control the success of those you empower by the mere act of empowering them. You build a structure that promotes performance and yields greater returns in less time.
If you are new to the concept of empowerment this may sound like a fairy tale. I encourage you to give it a try, say, 3-4 weeks, and then see what happens. Tell your people about your plans, involve them and seek advice from the outside facilitating this experiment. Remove yourself from the equation in that you shift your focus from micromanaging and controlling to empowering your people and organization. If the outcomes are suboptimal you can still go back to your own traditional management style. But before you do, give those whom you empowered a chance to talk about their experiences, too. This experiment costs little if anything. This way you have nothing to lose. A safe bet with huge potential returns. Give it a try!