The ‘expectations muddle’ of empowerment has different shapes and flavours:
- I expect you to do something but you don’t think you are empowered to do it.
- I empower you to do something (I have decided it is good to empower you) but you don’t want to be empowered (too much responsibility?)
- I am told that delegation is good, so I delegate, but call it empowerment. But I am just passing the monkey on to you.
- I empower you, you think I am abdicating.
- I don’t have permission to do, or I think I don’t have, I feel I am not empowered, but you never thought you needed to give me permission.
- You are empowered! Here you are! Take it. What? (Is he ok?)
- Empowering you means you need to behave as if you were the owner of the business (does it mean I can have your bonus?)
- We are all empowered, for goodness sake, just take accountability for things!
- I am empowering you to be empowered, but not too much, because I will lose control.
- I am told to let it go, so I am empowering you, but you don’t believe me for a second, because you know me. So I may have to do something more than just saying it.
- You are empowered. Please report to me weekly on the hitting of milestones, number of KPIs and times you took a break.
- I can’t empower everybody, it would be a disaster.
The above list of 12 contains these keywords, all conveniently used when and as needed contributing to the intrinsic muddle of the territory of empowerment: empowerment, wanted to be, thinking you are, delegation, abdications, monkey traffic, permission, ownership, accountability, control, let it go.
No wonder we can go for days and weeks ‘discussing empowerment’ without reaching anywhere serious. The conceptual discussion is messy and difficult. The only way to unbundle this is to descend to the behavioural side: what do you want to see in the environment (that people do, don’t do) that you can say ‘this is a culture of empowerment’?
The culture is, will be, will feel, completely different if your (collective) view of empowerment is for example delegation, or passing the monkey, or simply accountability taken.
The real, true, unique, powerful, core ingredient underneath this discussion has one word: control. That is, how much you have, need to have, should have, and their mirrors, how much you can lose, want to lose.
If you frame a discussion about empowerment you need to start by acknowledging the conceptual muddle and then peeling the onion until you get to the core. Then, there, at that core, it will be control, will feel control, will smell control. That is the issue. And if it is, your discussion now has a different label. Address control, forget the rest (unless the discussion takes place over a few glasses of wine, in which case, conceptual muddle thrives in such a fertile territory).
Dr Leandro Herrero is the CEO and Chief Organization Architect of The Chalfont Project, an international firm of organizational architects, and the pioneer of Viral Change™, a people Mobilizing Platform, a methodology that delivers sustainable, large scale behavioural and cultural change in organizations.
An international speaker, Dr Herrero is regularly invited to speak at global conferences and corporate events. To invite Leandro to speak at your conference or business event contact: The Chalfont Project or email: email@example.com.
For more information visit: The Chalfont Project Speaking Bureau
We can help your business Reboot!
Renew, transform, re-invent the way you do things. Organizations today need to look at better ways, alternative and innovative ways to change the status quo. It’s not about being radical for the sake of it. Only if you try radical ways will you be in a better position to find your ‘fit for purpose’ goals.
As Michelangelo said: ‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark’. He was a radical in the way we talk about it.
Fast diagnosis, fast alignment
This high intensity, accelerated intervention takes leadership teams of all levels through a process of discovery and identification of both stumbling blocks and enablers, will be followed by a clear ‘so-what’ and an action plan. Contrary to how this may sound, when the entire management team participates, this is an incredibly fast process. But it is also an in-depth one when using our tools which, amongst other things, shortcut weeks of discussions and pseudo-brainstorming. It results in alignment around a well crafted Game Plan that reflects where they see the organization/team/department in the short to medium term and a detailed commitment to action that can be tracked. You may or may not need us beyond that point in order to help you with the journey itself.
Format: in-person or virtual
Timing: 1 – 3 days depending on format
Audience: minimum 20 – maximum 40