Leadership Today
Empowerment - Practice and Theory
3/23/2010 10:34:53 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


Empowerment is a topic that attracts attention because of its potential to allow organizations to streamline and yet still improve results and profit.  ATC's team of facilitators have lived the challenges of implementing empowerment in organizations such as Texas Instruments, and we apply the theory that we have developed through practices that achieve results and also that avoid the potential pitfalls.  This will be the first of a couple of posts on this important and powerful topic of empowerment.

The practice of empowerment is attempted in the context of many applications: 

  • Employee empowerment – transitioning more empowerment to employees has occurred as organizations have flattened and attempted to become more lean
  • Team empowerment – self managed teams require a level of empowerment if they are to grow to truly be self managed teams.
  • Self empowerment – there is an internal desire for many people to have more control in their lives and work. Developing self in order to be ready for empowerment and responsibility is worthy.  Personal empowerment can be a great result.
  • Women empowerment – the authority of women in leadership has definitely grown. Such worthy progress by a segment of professionals and workers is accompanied with greater empowerment.
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 the next few days we will release a special ATC webpage dedicated to the practice and theory of empowerment.  Please check back for that at our main website.
Many thanks,


Influencing with Words: Part 3

Welcome back.

The third motivation trait for us to explore and understand is the Source program. This tells us where a person’s motivation and judgment comes from. For some, about 40%, it resides Internally, while for another 40% it resides Externally. Why is this important? Because, Source affects how decisions are made and how someone is, or isn’t, influenced by others.
Those who are Internally-sourced are typically self-motivated and receive orders or requests as information rather than as directives. They may ignore feedback if they do not feel that it is relevant or spot-on. Many are leaders because they are not timid in making decisions without other’s input and are seen as “go getters”. Others may see them as blinded or egotistical. If they lack confidence in themselves, they are hard to convince that they are better than they think they are. Trying to sell them on a belief or idea can be futile if it does not resonate with their value system or experience. When trying to give direction to someone Internally-sourced, you will want to speak to their values, understanding, experience, etc. 
Another 40% of the population, those who are Externally-sourced, need feedback and direction from others in order to stay motivated. When they are given information, they may see it as an expectation or an order to follow. This group is easily influenced by others and will aim to please. They can be seen as great team players or as weak “brown-nosers”. Because they take into consideration the thoughts and beliefs of others, they tend to be more inclusive and considerate of others’ points of view. This can lead to more balanced and solid decisions. However, they may need to learn how to make their own decisions at the appropriate times.
Some questions you can use to determine someone’s Sources are:
·         “How do you know you’ve done a good job?”
·         “Where do you determine you’ve done a good job?”
·         “Who do you involve when you make decisions?”
Influencing Language for both looks like:
·         Internal – you’ll know, it’s up to you, you can decide
·         External – it’s recommended, they will approve

When we take the time to understand and communicate in someone’s motivational language, we find ourselves more successful in encouraging them to action. So, the next time you are befuddled as to why someone did not deliver what you expected or you find yourself unable to influence them, try to better understand their language and what has meaning to them.

Many thanks,

Sondra Calhoun
Influencing with Words: Part 2

In my last blog, I spoke about Strategic Inquiry, three of the traits that, if triggered, will motivate us to take action, and the first of those traits being Criteria. In Part 2, I would like to talk about the second trait, Direction.* 

Studies have found that 80% of the population falls into one of two directions for motivation. Half of the group (40%) are people motivated by Moving Towards a goal and the other half (40%) are motivated by Moving Away From a problem. The rest of the population tends to move back and forth between the two. The interesting thing about these two directions is that they both have strong points as well as limitations.
Those who are Moving Towards people tend to be proactive, not responsive to problems and can be labeled as “blue sky” thinkers. They are always looking for the next big thing and are restless to stay in one place. Many leaders fall into this group because they are visionary and extremely goal-oriented. You will recognize these individuals by the fact that they promote quickly, change jobs frequently or move quite often. They are a huge resource for coming up with BIG ideas but tend to not want to stick around to see them sustained over a long period of time. They are too busy looking for the next BIG thing. Typical words that you will hear them use are: achieve, benefits, vision and advantages. If we want someone who is a Moving Towards person to take action, we will want to challenge them with a goal to achieve.
The people that fall into the Moving Away From category tend to be more reactive. They are okay with the status quo if it is a comfortable place for them. The real strength that they bring to the team or organization is that they are typically great problem solvers. They are quick to take action when a crisis or problem arises. The trick to motivating this group to take action is to create dissatisfaction with the current situation. They are often seen as cynics and have a hard time staying focused on being creative. Some of the words that you will hear them use are: avoid, fix, prevent and solve.
Questions that you can use to uncover which bucket individuals are the most comfortable in are:
·         “What will having that <criteria> do for you?”
·         “What’s important about <criteria>?”
·         “What will you get out of that?”
The key to helping any of these people to take action is to create common ground by speaking their language. Use the terminology that has meaning to them. In the story I shared about my son last time, I uncovered that he is a Moving Away From person, by asking some of these questions. One of the reasons I was not getting any positive movement from him was because I was speaking to him out of my Mind Map which just happens to be Moving Towards. I might as well have been speaking a foreign language to him.

* Drawn from “Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence”, by Shelle Rose Charvet

 Many thanks,

Sondra Calhoun




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