Last week, I was speculating that empowerment may create a social power base, to join others defined by John French and Bertram Raven. I created my own definition of the word, by reading dictionaries, looking on the web and drinking tea:
‘a socially endorsed management process that
grants people genuine control and authority
within the work place’
That was a bit of a mouthful, so I turned to Mike Applegarth and Keith Posner’s excellent Empowerment Pocketbook for their definition:
‘Authority, Power, Licence.’
Far snappier than mine and the emphasis is theirs. in fact, licence carries most of the burden of their definition. They say that ‘to licence is to empower’.
Another valuable point they make is that empowerment is a word managers use but rarely really explore. My favourite definition comes from their introduction, not just because it makes the clear link with organisational culture, but because it tells us what empowerment really feels like, in the real world, and away from the book, journal or web page:
‘…the only culture where no one gets blamed,
is the one where it really empowers’
Some Nice Models
There are some nice adaptations of familiar models in the Empowerment Pocketbook. They have adapted the Johari Window to team working and have a situational leadership model that places empowering as a leadership style that is high in two-way involvement and suitable for people high in responsibility and initiative.
I think the latter of the two is my favourite, so I will share it with you.
Applegarth and Posner say:
‘Enabling the individual is an important step to achieving an empowered workforce, yet it is the one most often ignored.’
I think they are spot on with this. Their toolkit for enabling the individual seems to me to be the heart of their Pocketbook and to provide some of the most practical content.
Too often empowerment is just a good word to bandy around. if you are serious about it, though, it takes hard work and persistence. The pay-off, however, can be huge. Eventually, you will get better, more committed staff, who are able to work with less supervision, innovate beyond the means of their bosses, and delight your clients and customers.
It’s time to get enabling!