In all these years of organizational consulting, I have found leaders who don’t empower their people, but, I have found many more followers who don’t take advantage of the empowerment. The conventional wisdom is that there are queues of people in the organization waiting to be empowered, and that it is in the widespread ‘command and control’ from leaders that the problem lies: they don’t empower their people. We all know instances where this is true, but empowerment is a two way street.
Two examples. Project teams with relatively low level of control of their own destiny, are finally given greater control. As part of this ‘upgrade’, the Project Leader, who has spent years complaining that ‘the project team does not have a budget’, is given budgetary control. But the now potentially Almighty Project Leader rejects the offer! ‘Too much responsibility’, or similar arguments, all around ‘no thanks’, including ‘but we don’t have financial training’.
Second example. Some people are historically excluded from some corporate committees. These excluded corporate functions complain that they are treated like second class citizens. Eventually they are invited to those fora and given full membership. But these people now complain that they are too busy to attend so many meetings.
These two examples are real for me, with real names and real companies, and, needleless to say, real frustration. Dare I say, including my own frustration having pushed heavily to obtain that kind empowerment.
Willing to take responsibility and accountability, to occupy an empowered space, is harder than complaining about the lack of empowerment. Inclusiveness is great for preaching, but being included has a price. For many people, when faced with it, they find it too high.
By the way, many people hate the word empowerment, so my apologies to them! But I hope we all know what we are talking about.
The old English saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for, you might get it’, should be posted on a sign at the front door of the Empowerment building.
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