It's not just semantics LO6346

John Woods (
Sun, 31 Mar 1996 22:40:08 -0600 (CST)

Replying to LO6328 --

Ned Hamson, Mr. ParetoKid, says:
>Empowerment seems pretty simple in some ways. You are empowered, or at
>least feel empowered, if you have both the responsibility to complete a
>task or make a decision, the authority to do it in the best manner you
>think possible, and the resources appropriate to the task or decision. In
>that sense, if responsibility, authority and resources are allocated or
>delegated to you, then you have been empowered. When a person, system, or
>organization draws back from that allocation or delegation, they are
>disempowering the person.
>Can it be that simple?

Let us say that a person is never disempowered. Let us say instead that
each person uses the power they think they have under any circumstances to
perform to the best of their ability. Let us say further that when it
seems individuals are disempowered, what we are really talking about is a
disempowered organization. In other words, when we say, in traditional
terms, that a manager has disempowered an employee, what we really mean is
that this manager has curtailed the capability of the organization. We
are saying that this manager has literally curtailed his or her own power
or performance at the same time.

We should be careful, however, not to blame such managers for holding back
the performance of employees. No one would knowingly act in such a
manner. Managers do this because they have somehow come to think this is
the right way to manage. Thus such behaviors are really symptoms of a
culture where the values and norms are askew. I would say that in such
cultures, there is probably general unconsciousness of the systems view.
The systems view reminds that our individual success is dependent on our
mutual success. It reminds us that we all need to work hard together to
make the system work well. We need to remember that empowerment is not so
much about empowering individuals, though it is about that, but about
empowering the whole so as to minimize poor performance of the system and
maximize the chances of excellence.

Finally, we have to be careful with this empowerment stuff not to focus so
much on individuals that we create all these silos of excellence that work
not in cooperation with each other but at cross purposes. The idea with
empowerment is to bring to our attention that it is our responsbility to
bring out the best in each person for the benefit of all. If we are not
aware of that, we don't disempower individuals. They always have all
their power. They just aren't able to use it very well. In other
words,the idea of empowerment is really just a kind of reminder that we
have to create a culture where people feel free to perform up to their
full capabilities in collaboration with each to achieve organizational
objectives. So let's remember that empowerment isn't just a neat
humanitarian idea, but a sound approach to making the system work as well
as it can today and get better tomorrow.

John Woods

-- (John Woods)

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