The first aspect of sharing power is giving team members the ability to do things. That means a number of things, including providing the knowledge and resources they will need as well as creating the proper atmosphere. Your team members have to believe they can make decisions and that they have the backing to do so.

What It Is

Empowerment has become the organizational equivalent of a New Age term, bringing more sentiment than change. But it is the ideal word for what you need to do: give the basics of power to everyone in an organization who can use it. Concretely, empowerment is the process of giving people on your team the ability to make decisions and do things — in short, giving them power.

Convince the Team

But it's not enough to tell people they have power. That's the problem with the term empowerment: Its overuse has lead to a cheapening of the concept. When people hear that they are about to get the right to make substantive decisions, they often doubt it. Given the number of times they're promised something that never comes through, who can blame them? Not only must you propagate the idea that team members are valuable contributors to the success of an organization, you must convince them as well.

Empowerment can be more difficult to establish when the team already exists and the overall organization does not support the concept. Then you must find a way to enable a degree of power for team members and undo the psychological damage of established dysfunctional organizational behavior.

Empowerment can work for everyone on a team. However, if people are not used to the concept, you may need to bring them to the point where they will accept this new level of authority. You might find that people resist because they have either lost the belief in their ability to be effective or never developed it in the first place. In that case, you have a tough row to hoe.

Re-establishing Self-Confidence

When people lack the assurance to take on power, there is something wrong. Watch some children — even at play, they are daring and willing to create worlds and imagine themselves with tremendous abilities and futures. It is only as adults that many people find themselves limited, beaten down by life. These are people lacking self-confidence because circumstances have conditioned them to believe that nothing is possible.

If you have team members with this degree of reluctance, you will need to help them develop self-assurance, at least concerning what your team does. This will likely be a tedious process of giving them small amounts of responsibility, helping them through coaching and mentoring to succeed, and then expanding the scope of what you expect them to do. There is no quick way through this. At the same time, chances are that there is no quick way for your team to reach its goals, so you have no reason to rush.

Making Space for Others

Even if team members have self-assurance, you as a leader also need poise and confidence. It may not come naturally, and you'll need to create your own process to increase your acceptance of the strategy. You'll need to convince both yourself and others that you mean it when you use the word empowerment.

Persuading yourself is like persuading team members of their own worthiness. You hand off some power, see positive results, and then try more. When it comes to winning over others, you must show through daily action that you mean it when you talk about empowering people on the team.

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