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Is Empowerment a road to accountability?

Updated: Apr 15

I recently delivered a workshop as part of an eight month leadership program on "empowering our teams". Empowerment was a word I hadn't used for a while, but in bringing to life what was going to be important for this group of 40+ leaders to unpack, empowerment become the road to accountability because it drives ownership, and is a broad all encompassing concept that acts as a thread across all aspects of leadership.

To first understand empowerment, it's important to dissect what dis-empowerment looks like, and acknowledge what's important about this to hone in on the themes that empowerment is made up of.

When a team member or team feels dis-empowered, it results in self-doubt and a loss of confidence, turning a generally creative team member into a cautious, double checking overthinker. This is followed by a feeling of being stuck and a myriad of poor decision making, leading to a culture of silence and low psychological safety.

It can be faintly seen in the poor results of a team or organisation and a lack of innovation, ideation or creative thinking which equals NIL in continuous improvement.

There is also a sense of no support and clarity, with goal posts continuously moving meaning expectations are either unclear or simply out of the park unrealistic. With all this uncertainty and lack of results, disempowerment normally turns to micromanaging, more rework than is necessary and procrastination. There is what we call quiet quitting, and probably a lift in staff turnover as well as a generally all round unhealthy workplace culture.

It means leaders are mostly likely not exercising self awareness, nor are they tapping into their emotional intelligence or strengths, or cultivating a team's psychological safety. Feedback may be a one-way street and the ability to cultivate trust, inspire others, or build resilience is met with inconsistent results.

You start to appreciate why empowerment is like a thread across all aspects of leadership.

And what does empowerment look like?

A leader who builds other's self-belief and understands that each team member is unique and in different stages of their development, and therefore needing to be challenged and stretched differently. Trust and Psychological safety are understood and worked on by leaders and team members collectively, and there is a sense of power being shared with team members as opposed to having power-over others.

This results in people feeling what they had to offer was valued, and delegation and information sharing being at an all time high.

It also means leaders create space and put energy into coaching and mentoring others. And a culmination of all of this is a learning culture, robust discussion that challenges the status quo specifically for the purpose of innovating and improving equating to continuous improvement being high, individual confidence (and therefore ownership) also high, as is productivity.

As well as leaders ensuring the organisation is structured to support an empowered workforce - there's clarity in roles and expectations, communication is exceptional, results, goals and customer stories are regularly shared with everyone and not limited to leadership catch-ups and workforce development was highly valued.

The ripple effect of all of this is an uplift in results.

Empowerment is a leadership thread, requiring leaders to acknowledge their behaviour has the power to either disempower or empower others and delegation and a coaching style has the power to unlock the potential of your workforce.



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