Most of the things that we do include deadlines and guidelines. My main conflict as leader has always been in between chasing deadlines while following guidelines and the need for empowerment – apprenticing future leader, my successor. When I opt for empowerment, the work done might not be perfect as stated in guidelines and it might be done way past my personal deadlines, but empowerment is a very powerful Second Quadrant activity if I just put a little patience in it – I’ve seen this great effect on a few people.
One of the obstacles I face when I try to inject empowerment culture in a new group I’m working with is my colleagues are showing signs of stress. It has usually been easy when someone make decisions for you and you simply execute the tasks. Now, imagine when you ask your boss, “How do I do this?” and he answered, “How do you think you can do that? If you have a suggestion, I can help you work on that.” Then, you really have to start thinking and take responsibilities on your decisions.
Usually when I’m doing this as a team leader, I don’t tell openly “I’m empowering all of you to work on the tasks that we agreed on.” I just work with them that way, whether they realize it or not. Some people might not anticipate that they have to do some things themselves. Some people might even assume that I’m trying to avoid taking responsibilities. This is why, most of the time, it is so much easier to just tell people what to do than cultivating empowerment culture.
The fact is there is a difference between avoiding responsibilities and empowering people to take responsibilities. The line separating those two are very thin, though. I, sometimes, accidentally fall into the former when I lose track of the big picture, the ultimate goal.
The idea of the latter is not to leave the team members to make decisions alone, but to assist and be a valuable resource in their decision making process while at the same time letting them learn the value of taking responsibilities and making decisions. A job well done will then elevate the team members’ motivation because they really take it as their own effort.
The good effect of empowerment can only be seen after quite some time. I’ve seen team members who are finally able to work with minimum supervision. Some even reporting without the need to be asked first. They also become more creative because they feel that there is no limit for them to make their own decision as long as they are willing to take the risk personally.
Another good thing about empowerment is it enabled me to filter my team members’ working styles. It clearly distinguishes people who are more independent among others, thus letting them take on bigger roles and move faster in developing their leadership skills.
When empowerment has become a culture in an organization, the challenge is in getting the communication flows smoothly. As the team members become capable and independent, it is important for the leader to get everyone updated and collaboratively engaged to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal. The team members need to be constantly reminded of their mutual roles to contribute effectively for the team.
I still have a lot to learn in order to empower and be empowered. Empowerment is a great tool, especially in developing new leaders. Used correctly, it can make wonders.