Apparently the word ‘empower’ is a bit overdone. But in my experience it is often not done enough! To empower someone is to give them the authority or power to do something, and to make them stronger and more confident.
This year I have taken a big step and empowered my children to do their own laundry! While it might sound like a simple change, we’ve had to work out a system, because it turns out that they all want to do their washing on the same day, and with all the rain we had earlier this year, our poor old dryer wasn’t able to cope.
A cynical reader could think that the value in this empowerment was more in my favour than theirs, but the benefits to be gained for them included learning the following skills: planning ahead, taking responsibility, working with others, operating machinery, not to mention relaxation in the garden listening to the birds whilst hanging out the washing.
EMPOWERMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
How would this translate to the work environment? Empowering your team requires planning, training and good systems. They need to understand what is expected of them, be skilled in the required knowledge, and have great systems that allow them to perform at their best. In simple terms empowerment requires Clarity, Capability, and the right level of Complexity to deliver high performance.
IT TAKES TIME
It’s easy saying you empower someone to take on a responsibility, but unless they have or can develop the requisite skills, this might be an unfair move. As leaders we must be prepared to train team members, not only in technical skills but soft skills such as problem solving, planning and communication, and then be prepared to coach them as they develop those skills over time. We mustn’t fall into the trap of seeing them fail once and taking the responsibility away.
At home we’ve got a little way to go with the laundry. One of my kids regularly ‘forgets’ to do her washing, and as her coach I’m also learning to keep encouraging her. Rather than call it ‘a fail’, I know she will benefit and in the long run start to own the responsibility.