Empowerment is an ongoing process
Jane noticed that a few of her teammates were underperforming. They attended meetings but weren’t really engaged. They tended to shy away from team lunches and pretty much kept to themselves during the day. Jane asked them discretely what she could do to support them and help them more actively participate in the discussions and decisions of the team. It was the first time anyone had asked them what they needed. After asking them a few times, they took her seriously. Derrick said that he didn’t come from the same background as others and felt that he wasn’t taken seriously by them. Jane asked Derrick to prepare some answers to some questions she’d be asking the group at the next meeting. She didn’t want to surprise him and gave him time to prepare.
During the next meeting, Jane asked Derrick for his opinion. Derrick cleared his throat and took a few breaths before he explained his position. The response from the group was silence at first, and then a conversation followed.
Jane boosted the self-confidence of one of her colleagues. When she did that she altered the social dynamics of her team.
Jane noticed some changes in Derrick. His self-confidence grew and he was more willing to participate in team activities. But Jane also noticed that the behaviour of other team members was also changing, some of it for the worst. Formerly active and engaged team members were withdrawing from voicing their opinions and from interacting with others. Jane wondered what was happening. So Jane went about and asked Nadia what was going on. Nadia didn’t say anything at first.
Eventually Jane was able to put her finger on it. Nadia felt threatened by Derrick’s newfound voice. By empowering Derrick, Jane had changed some of the power dynamics of the group. In so doing, Nadia’s self-esteem took a hit and she just didn’t have the same level of self-confidence as she did once before.
Obviously Jane wasn’t going to ask Derrick to stop participating. Instead, she worked to boost Nadia’s self-esteem and helped her realise that the work is better off having everyone contributing to it. The balance between team members in their relative social position had been upset. Jane didn’t want to undo her work with Derrick and she also didn’t want to leave Nadia feeling pushed aside. So Jane also began supporting Nadia in adjusting to her new social surroundings.
To have an empowered workforce is to have a team of highly capable autonomous individuals consistently producing highly quality work. It’s every manager’s dream. When you empower someone, always keep in mind that they work in a context of relationships. When one person changes, the substance or dynamic of the relationship also changes.
- Empowerment is an ongoing process that takes time, dedication and patience
- Recognise everyone’s positive contribution to the work
- When empowering someone, underline, stress and showcase how better off everyone is by having more people positively contributing
- Help find common interests between those who are being empowered and those already with power
- Help people create an attitude of abundance