Empowerment as a Tool for Everyone’s Success with Julie Ann Sullivan


There’s a huge difference between giving guidance and being pushy.  Here is a scenario to illustrate what I am talking about.  Let’s say you ask someone on your team if they want to expand their responsibilities.  If they said they weren’t interested, how surprised would you be? Instead of saying something like, “Why not?” or “Don’t you want to grow?”  you might instead empower that individual by letting them know that you see a characteristic in them that they may not see themselves.  Individuals sometimes want to expand their horizons but might never have been given the opportunity before.  Some people internalize that as not being capable.  As the cliché goes, you might see the diamond in the rough, but until the diamond is polished, it still thinks it’s a rock.

As an alternative, express that you see the potential for growth in a particular area and ask if they would try it out for a period of time.  Give people time to grow into the idea.  The worst that can happen is you will all become more aware of the skill level of those that are just discovering new abilities.

There are leaders who are impatient with mistakes and have the mentality to just “get it done”.  When there’s a problem they fix it without ever giving feedback or allowing someone to learn the right way to succeed.  This path may seem like the most efficient, but in the long run, there are definitely undesirable consequences.

This happened to me.  In my prior career, I was a CPA.  During my first job as a tax preparer, I had a boss who would rather fix my mistakes than teach me.  At that moment in time, he felt it was easier just to “get it done.”  It was just a little referencing error after all.

However, it was a recurring one, because I didn’t know any different because no one ever told me.  You would be shocked how often that happens, or maybe you’re saying, “Ooops, that’s me.” Over the course of three months, I never learned how to reference correctly and actually was feeling pretty good that my work wasn’t returned to me for errors.

During that same period of time, the partner discovered that what first appeared to be a small error to fix, got pretty irritating the 50th time.

At my year-end review, he was pretty angry, but that wasn’t my fault. He had not empowered me with the information necessary to do the work correctly.  In turn, he created stress for himself and me.  This is also a good time to mention, that situations like these are exactly why annual reviews are so “old school”.

If you let someone know what they did incorrectly and show them how to make it right, a lot of time is saved and stress doesn’t build up.  Helping people grow through their mistakes IS a way to empower them.  Imagine how different a relationship between colleagues can be if you choose to give someone direction so they have the opportunity to become better at their job Isn’t that better than saving time, being irritating and setting up your colleague to flounder?  In the end, you don’t really save time either.

For those in a leadership role, allowing people to expand their capabilities can be challenging.

For instance, permitting a colleague to do something new, on their own, the first time, can be difficult.  Not knowing the outcome can be disconcerting for people with certain types of personalities.

It’s a lot like watching a child begin to walk.  There are going to be some instances of falling over along the way.  If you always catch them though, they’ll never learn how to get up on their own and keep going.  Given the opportunity, you might discover new strengths in your workforce or yourself.

Here’s another way to empower your team.  The next time someone expresses a problem, ask them to come up with their own solutions. Allowing them to come up with their own original idea to solve that situation, increases their perspective of how they’re valued. When they’re allowed to think on their own, they may discover their idea stinks. They may realize the status quo is the best solution.  Or, they may come up with a great new idea that benefits the company as a whole. In any case, you have encouraged them to flourish.

Let me take a moment to say, please don’t be the micromanager.  Having someone theoretically or literally looking over your shoulder all the time does not instill an empowering atmosphere.  And besides no one I have ever met likes a micromanager.  No one.  It is definitely a growth killer.

When people feel empowered, productivity and innovation can grow tenfold.

Ask yourself how you can find new ways to empower those around you.  Then sit back and see the difference in them and you.

 If you need help, call me at 724-344-0728 and let’s create a workplace where new ideas, constructive adjustments and praise are the norms.

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