Empowerment is simply the act of giving power, authority, or permission to someone. That’s it. It basically means to enable and encourage someone to take action. When you empower your team you are giving them permission and encouragement to more fully engage in their job, to contribute more of themselves and to take ownership of their role. It helps people own their part in the collective vision with such responsibility that they take initiative to go beyond the average to achieve the extraordinary.
In the following two skits we witness one event with two very different approaches from two very different leaders. As you read these scenarios, pay close attention to the response of the team member Jenny. Identify items in their discussion that might be empowering. Also identify the items that might be discouraging. Look for words, actions, etc.
- Supervisor: (hesitant, blah, annoyed)
Listen Jenny, I’m sure you know how busy we’ve been with all the construction going on with those new housing developments. Basically, we just need a lot more technicians and corporate doesn’t seem to think I can handle them all by myself. So, it looks like I have to pick somebody to promote to manager. I don't really agree with that decision, but you’ve been here the longest so you should just do it.
- Jenny: (unsure)
Well um, I guess I could do that. What’s next?
- Supervisor: (doubtful, annoyed, walking away)
I have no idea, I guess I’ll email Bob at the main office and tell him you’re the one who's gonna do it. Then we see what he says.
- Jenny: (even more unsure, to the supervisor's back as he walks away)
Ok, so I'll just wait to hear from you then I suppose.
Scenario 2: Empowering
- Supervisor: (excitedly)
Hey Jenny, I was looking for you and hoped I might find you down here. Can we chat for a minute, I have some exciting news?
- Jenny: (interested, putting work down)
Sure, what’s going on?
- Supervisor: (Sitting down)
Well, you know how much the company has been growing, especially with all of the construction going on in those new housing developments? In order to grow with the demand, corporate has decided to hire more technicians and to create a new management position to oversee them. As soon as I heard I would get to offer this position to someone, I immediately thought of you. Not only do you have the most experience, but you really are team oriented, you work collaboratively and you care about the people you work with. I thought this would be a good chance for you to use those leadership skills. What do you think?
- Jenny: (surprised and excited)
Thank you, it sounds like a great opportunity. Wow, I am really excited. What’s next?
- Supervisor: (both standing, pleased)
Well, I’ll go email Bob now and let him know that you’ve accepted. And I’ll ask him for some more details and a timeline of what this will look like. How about we plan to meet after lunch tomorrow to go over it all? Then we can put together a game plan.
- Jenny: (surprised and excited)
That sounds wonderful, thanks again!
- Some of the things in the first scenario that could be discouragers are: tone of voice, using deflating words, lack of explanation, lack of inspiration, no plans, very dry and succinct interaction and walking away mid-sentence. Did you catch these? Are there any others?
- Some of the things in the second scenario that could be empowering are: excited tone of voice, painting the picture of excitement, taking the time to sit down and focus, explanation of why Jenny would be good for the job, offering the job, having a plan and working together. Are these the same things you noticed? Are there any others?