Empowerment: “Getting Out of Their Way”

27 Apr

(Part 1 of 3)

“The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it” (Jack Welch).

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others” (Bill Gates).

Competitive people, like me, treat everything as a game. We don’t mind failing as long as we learn from those experiences and improve the next time. We thrive on challenges. But sometimes we fail at encouraging others and coaching them from the sidelines.  We’d rather play someone else’s game for them.

We need to become proactive in purposefully providing feedback, coaching others through challenges, listening and asking prodding questions to help people determine what they should have done differently (rather than simply providing the answers). This involves more time and energy than doing it ourselves (similar to the process a parent goes through when teaching a child to set the table or dress himself). And “getting out of their way to let them just do it” is especially difficult for us. 

Enabling others to act is more rewarding than doing everything ourselves. In order to accomplish exemplary things,a leader needs a strong team. One person cannot follow through with a large and dynamic vision. Especially in a corporate setting, leaders have to enable others to act. They have to use the word “we”much more than the word “I”. Rather than micro-managing, a leader must help their team members reach their potential by feeling empowered, capable and committed.  People need to be instilled with a sense of confidence, empowered to act creatively, and challenged to take responsibility for the quality of their work.

Leaders accept and act on the paradox of power: you become more powerful when you give your own power away. Leaders need to be mentors and coaches. First, we learn to manage ourselves and to be aware of our strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals. But we don’t stop there. Next, as leaders, we turn to those we are leading and help them become aware as well.  “People tend to gravitate toward the aspects of their job they like the most, namely, the aspects that tie in to their dreams, identity, and aspirations. By linking people’s daily work to these long-term goals, coaches keep people motivated” (Goleman).

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