One of the most common complaints I hear when speaking to senior leaders is around a lack of empowerment in their teams. More specifically, the leader is trying to empower their people but the people are not responding - "I have told them they are empowered, but they still come to me for every little decision". Empowerment is a tricky thing. Telling people that they are empowered is easy, getting them to behave in an empowered way is a very different matter. The problem here is that we are looking at empowerment the wrong way round. Empowerment is not something you can just give to someone. While the giving of empowerment is important, it's not the only step. Empowerment only works when the receiver accepts it. You can give empowerment all you like, but if the intended recipient doesn't accept that empowerment, nothing will happen.
But why wouldn't someone accept empowerment? Everyone wants to be empowered don't they? Why don't they jump at the chance? Many years ago I worked for a very large engineering company and the management wanted to try out this brand new (It was a long time ago) empowerment thing. So they gave every employee an "empowerment card" with a statement from the CEO on it that said that anyone in the organisation was empowered to make any decision required. The idea was that if you wanted to seize empowerment by the horns and make a decision that was out of your normal role, you could whip out your card, toss it on the table and say "The CEO has empowered me to make this decision", and away you go. Sounds great doesn't it? Trouble is, not one person used it. Out of the 150,000 people in the company, not one person used one. Zero. Why?Read More