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The Power to Empower


May 20, 2014



For those of you playing Business Lingo (aka ‘BS’!) Bingo, there you go, I’ve said it. The ‘E’ word! Empowerment, it’s a classic.  Mark it off your cards.

But no matter how many times we might hear the word, it remains an area for focus, debate and executive development.  In a recent workshop discussion with a group of senior managers about leading higher performance we came to discuss the concept of empowerment and the ownership of such performance.  It was an engaging debate and here are some of the highlights.

A Working Definition

The group proposed this definition in the context of managing people:

“Giving the individual the confidence to achieve the goals and have the ability to decide how they manage them.”

What’s your version of this?

3 Key Elements

We labelled 3 elements that managers need to demonstrate and generate for empowerment to be happening:

  1. Trust: showing an employee that you trust in their intentions, in their desire to achieve the stated goals and in their decisions along the way.
  2. Confidence: transmitting that you have made the right decision to give power to the employee and that you are confident in the approach they will take.
  3. Responsibility: for responsibility read ownership. Empowered employees own the goals and tasks, taking the credit for success and learning from mistakes along the way.  Passing responsibility can be the most challenging element for many managers!

How do you know when it’s Missing?

Here are some of the warning signs to look out for in your organisations that might indicate the empowerment is lacking:

  • low morale
  • low self-belief among employees
  • lack of commitment or engagement in the vision, mission and goals
  • going through the motions
  • lack of ownership and plenty of passing the buck!
  • poor employee feedback scores
  • managers giving answers and direction all the time

An Empowerment Checklist

So, having experienced empowering situations (and also those where it has been lacking), reflected on those experiences and drawn some conclusions, we tackle the question of what managers can choose to do next.  Here are some useful suggestions to create an empowering and productive climate at work:

  • identify the strengths of each employee
  • balance the routine tasks with the ‘engaging‘ ones
  • offer support and reassurance habitually
  • flex your leadership style – direct when necessary, coach when appropriate, listen constantly
  • identify the development that can be gained from both tasks and goals
  • trust and ‘hold back’
  • allow enough time for employees to complete their tasks

When employees feel empowered, have a sense of control in the work they perform and have a realistic workload, we have a real chance of producing high performance.  Over to you.  You’ve got the power!

Change the empowerment in your organisation.  Call us on +44 (0) 7840 323585 or email us at to discuss how.

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