I used to work for a manager that was so benevolent, that he used to empower people like a King would Knight someone with a sword. If it hadn’t been so sad to watch it would have been almost funny. His favorite thing to say when someone asked a question or sought guidance was, “you are now empowered to solve that problem yourself.”
It is my belief that empowerment is not something you grant people the permission to do, but rather create an environment where people feel free to make decisions, have success and learn from failures. When you grant someone empowerment, you are deferring the responsibility if things go wrong.
My manager was famous as I’ve said for granting people empowerment. Although this might sound great, it was only a positive experience if you landed up preceding the same way the boss wanted you to go. If you went the wrong way, he would swoop in and scream like a crow that you had screwed up. If you were successful you never heard from him again.
On more than one occasion I would hear him take credit for something I had done (while being empowered) as if I was nothing more than the errand boy following his orders. So how does this all equal empowerment? It does not!
True empowerment allows a person to grow and experience the full results of their work. When I was a Chief Learning Officer, I frequently would get accolades over the volume of work and creativity of our training organization. I could have taken credit, but that would have been so far from the truth it wouldn’t have been funny. I had a team of very empowered people taking risks, and stretching themselves to solve problems. We met the needs of the organization, but none of us did it alone.
In our organization it was just as easy to succeed as it was to fail, which allowed us to be the former more often than the latter. To date, this was the finest group of people I’ve had the privilege to work alongside. I might have been the Chief Learning Officer, but we all took turns being empowered. Ding!