Over Empowering People


I firmly believe in the dynamics of empowering people and unleashing their potentials, but I’ve recently had that thinking challenged a bit by an organization that seems to have over empowered their employees.  Initiatives that require all hands on deck, sailing in the same direction are sinking because everyone has been empowered to think and act outside the box.

What happens if senior management agrees on a new sales or service approach, and then the next level of management is split 50/50 on staying with the old way and moving forward with the new way?  I have a single word – Chaos!

Not that over empowering happens very often, as a lot of organizations are still struggling with empowering anyone, but what do we do to prevent empowering from growing into an unwieldy force?  How do we set limitations without squashing creativity?

Let’s look at an example of a new strategy for customer service.  In many financial organizations because of the regular turnover of staff, company wide training initiatives become the first steps in refocusing everyone’s attention on service.  Should the training events become optional or mandatory?  I say they need to be mandatory to begin with the consistent message.  In fact groups of mixed experience levels with customer service often enhance the learning process.

What about when these skills learned in training are to be implemented?  Should they be required to be demonstrated as learned, or subject to local managers desire to go a different route?  I say they need to be required to use the skills as learned or the training was a waste of time and money.

Okay, then what about enhancing what was learned, or doing more than what is required?  I say, empower away!  Go out and improve on the model and may the best service provider win!

You see that empowering has its place in the process, as does follow the leader.  And here my friends is where the rubber hits the road.  Leaders must know when to lead and direct, as well as when to let go of the reins and unleash empowerment.

What are your thoughts? 

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2 thoughts on “Over Empowering People

  1. Interesting post! But it seems to me that you paint an overly black-and-white picture of what empower is. I’m also a proponent of empowering others, but such empowerment should come within an established framework to guide the actions and decision making of the empowered individuals. Perhaps that’s what you’re saying with your training example. After all, we all operate within frameworks (legal, moral, values-driven) in everything we do. So, why would we expect that the simple act of empowering others would mean allowing them to operate completely without bounds, direction, or limitations?

    • Excellent point Trevor, and yes I was attempting to make that clear in my example. The frame of mind I was under was the manager that doesn’t allow any freedom of thought outside their own ideas. Bounds, direction and limitations are a part of good empowerment practices. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

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