What is empowered? According to dictionary.com the definition is as follows:
I wanted to look into this definition because this word has become a huge buzz word for business, social media, women’s rights, employee engagement, and I’m sure many other societal facets that I’m not in touch with. The feeling I got from hearing this word and seeing all the related media with it, I imagine someone transformed; a slumped-over, downtrodden, and hopeless individual gradually enlightened from within to become a tall, proud standing individual with their chin-up and shoulders back ready to face the impending hurricane. (Please share your image of what empowerment means!) However, the definition above seems slightly different than what I described.
Given permission or authorized to do perform when you weren’t otherwise allowed? Um, who died and made you king, Dictionary.com?! When applying both “definitions” to the business world and how many senior management teams are looking for empowered employees or to empower them, I wonder which definition are these managers looking to fulfill. Because, again, my perception and philosophy is that empowerment comes from within. Granted, external variables can influence your motivation to become empowered, but ultimately it’s the individual’s decision whether they want to become empowered. And I imagine the same process occurs within the business world. For example, during my recent rejections I started feeling what I defined as empowered, (see my Facebook posts below). I was facing some difficult changes and when I would normally throw myself a self-pity party, instead I flexed my emotional muscle, got on my feet, and kept walking through the proverbial hell.
So where am I getting the wrong message when I try implementing the same practices elsewhere and get major pushback from the organization or team? Was I supposed to come in with a permission note from my mom before I could become empowered? If you want me to be a self-start on improvement projects and become internally-motivated to get things done on my own, but not if it’s something you didn’t think of or in the way you would’ve done it…how am I empowered? That sounds more like enslavement.
Again, my definition described above is interpreted differently from the one provided by Dictionary.com. I wanted to explore what everyone else defines, perceives, embodies, or otherwise practices empowerment. It’s not a dangerous word that I think many people who are already in “positions of power” define it as such, (side thought: is it dangerous because it’s threatening their status, livelihood?). During my brief tenures as leader in various companies and organizations, I tried to empower my employees/teammates by this simple idea:
If you see something that needs to be changed, make the change. I will have your back on your change if you can support the reason for why you made the change.
I felt, and still do, that this allowed for the freedom of innovation within your diversified team. And, if the change wasn’t all it cracked up to be originally, what stopped you from changing it back? How do you know if you never try through trial and error? This, to me, is true employee empowerment. To have the freedom to innovate, to grow, and to make mistakes for the best intentions without fear of being reprimanded because it wasn’t done the “right” way. But, remember: be the change you wish to see in the world. How can you empower others if you don’t empower yourself?
How do you practice empowerment, both for yourself and others?
Photo credit: http://www.galpalsunite.com/how-relationships-mirror-self-worth/