Let’s start by crushing the #1 myth about empowerment:
We can’t empower others! That’s right, we can’t empower others, but we can build trusting relationships and create environments that facilitate self-empowerment.
People have the power within, but sometimes they need someone, or an experience, to cultivate and develop the skill of self-empowerment.
There are several definitions of the term “empower.”
Here are a couple of my favorites:
- To promote the self-actualization of and
- To give someone more confidence and/or strength to do something, often by enabling them to increase their control over their own life or situation.
These definitions of empower are closely aligned with the belief that as leaders we can do things to purposefully increase employee empowerment. But true empowerment results from the beliefs, choices and actions of the individual.
According to research, creating environments that promote self-empowered employees can result in positive outcomes, including employees feeling that:
- They have greater autonomy
- Their job has meaning
- They are competent
- They can make a difference
If we believe empowering employees is important, the 3 V’s can provide a great start, or serve to accelerate the empowerment process you have already implemented in your team, business or non-profit.
To create a culture that communicates importance, belonging, and connectedness.
Regardless of the diversity of the individuals or the magnitude of the project, I’ve found if you identify and utilize the unique value individuals bring to a project, or team, they will actively engage and contribute “above and beyond” toward a positive outcome.
So how do you identify their unique value?
Begin by being 100% present-focused when you communicate with team members. Ask open-ended questions, to include: “What added value do they believe they can contribute? and “How can they make a project or team stronger?” Then, genuinely listen to their responses without interrupting. As Theodore Roosevelt said: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
To create a culture where every voice feels empowered to speak and knows they are heard.
As leaders, by making ourselves vulnerable first, we can create a culture where team members are more willing to share their voice. The ability to have a consistent voice may show up in the form of offering a different opinion in a project meeting, sharing an idea that could enhance a process or outcome, or not being afraid to offer feedback to you or the team.
While vulnerability is the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty and risk, it’s often confused with weakness. Instead, consider a different perspective from Brene Brown, author of Dare to Lead: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weaknesses.”
Being vulnerable can be as simple as acknowledging mistakes. This creates an empowering culture where team members are more willing to take risks and make mistakes – because mistakes lead to learning and learning results in high-performance.
To provide direction for where WE want to go, or to begin with OUR end in mind.
Depending on the situation, your vision could be the company vision – where a company wants to be in the future – or a vision for a major project rolling-out.
As leaders, if we want each team member, or employee, to buy into a shared vision, then bringing it back to their individual “Why?” is a great place to start. As Simon Sinek described, our “why” can be thought of as “that thing” that drives us toward our vision and keeps us going even when the situation is challenging.
When my friends and I recently road our bicycles 200 miles in one day, we had a shared vision to ride from Norman, Oklahoma to just short of Wichita, Kansas. But, it was our INDIVIDUAL WHY that powered us through the adversity of the day. and created a sense of loyalty, or the feeling that we were part of something much bigger than ourselves. Each one of us found our place in the SHARED VISION when we were powered by our INDIVIDUAL WHY.
Most of us would agree that an empowered team or workforce under character-driven leadership is an unstoppable machine. When applied intentionally and consistently, the 3 V’s are powerful tools to add to our empowerment toolbox, while reminding ourselves:
“Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.”