The Practice of Empowerment and Empowerment Theory
The practice of empowerment is attempted in the context of many applications:
Some of these examples experience natural emergence and growth over time. Others are initiated intentionally and pressured to increase. It is in these areas where empowerment is forced where we often see problems. Absence of attention to some basics of empowerment theory can even result in disastrous outcomes.
ATC professionals have developed and refined approaches to empowerment over the years. We place careful attention on the details and pitfalls of empowerment processes in order to enable organizations to succeed and obtain their desired results.
The picture depicts a transfer of power via gears. In organizations, empowerment is a transition of power among members, usually from leaders to employees and teams.
Definition of empowerment – we prefer to define empowerment as follows:
Empowerment is a process to give a person (or team) more authority for making the decisions critical to success in their work.
Empowerment is a continuum, allowing different levels of empowerment based on the readiness of the individuals and leaders involved, in combination with surrounding business conditions.
In preparing for successful empowerment, creation of a solid base of understanding and operation is critical. It its simplest form, that base would include three elements.
Leaders – Preparations and full understanding of empowerment by the leaders is critical. They may struggle with this. It requires training and support to help them understand that empowerment better serves the organization. Empowerment can feel to the leaders as though they are losing something (power). ATC training processes help them make the transformation.
People and teams– careful attention must be placed on preparing the team members to accept and successfully use the additional authority (power) they will receive. Attention to accountability is critical to success.
Mission focus– if all parties are most focused on mission success as outcomes of the transition of decision making authority, the stage is set for success. Without this, things can spin out of control.
ATC professionals connect the pillars of the foundation with key soft skills of communication and leadership so that the connections between these key elements are solid.
ATC’s training processes for both leaders and teams embraces a derivative of the classical situational leadership model. It is a powerful model for creating a basis of empowerment that can be dynamic over time as the process matures and performance/results of the organization change with the different variables and constraints of business. An element that ATC team members fondly refer to as the “Meeker factor” enhances the model to make vivid the importance of accountability in empowerment theory and practice. (It is so named for the President of ATC and his unceasing emphasis on building accountability into the empowerment equation.)
With the recent restructuring processes that many organizations have endured in these challenging economic times, successful empowerment of people and teams can be powerful. Empowerment may even be essential for some groups to successfully climb back to high levels of performance and profit.
Implemented correctly, the outcomes can be many:
There are pitfalls and risks that accompany empowerment that is implemented in haste. The worst potential outcome is the creation of entitlement. It is a serious problem when people and teams feel entitled to take action, but do not own responsibility for the success or failure of the operations and business.
Implemented correctly, the profit and rewards can be excellent. Employee motivation and productivity go hand in hand. Empowerment motivation for the employee pays off at the bottom line.
If you want to move your organization toward empowerment, or perhaps to higher levels of empowerment, we stand ready to assist you. We have developed and refined empowerment theory into training processes that will enable your organization to experience great success from the correct practice of empowerment.