Friday Aug 03 2007
We often use a lack of empowerment as a sweeping justification for all kinds of organizational and relationship problems. The pursuit of empowerment can become an impediment to change—effectively reinforcing or aggravating a person’s or a company’s existing predisposition to the status quo. When people start thinking empowerment as an entitlement, they complain about autonomy, about being left alone and about being responsible for particular outcomes without the ‘authority to act’. Although they say they need or want power, they often continue to behave as if they are powerless. If others in the organization buy into this view of entitlement, they start accepting whatever excuses are offered for not delivering on commitments—a shared conversation that effectively disempowers people and creates a habit of using excuses to ‘explain away’ their behavior.
To be empowered is to be responsible for our commitments. It means having the competency or capacity to take actions or have others take actions that are appropriate to fulfilling whatever we are intending to accomplish. This doesn’t mean we might be able to do everything personally, or even that we need to know everything or have all the resources to do the job. Empowerment is all about the relationship between us and our circumstances.
If we believe we aren’t empowered, we’re declaring that our circumstances are more powerful than we are—and that our commitments and any actions we might take will be insufficient.
We can only empower ourselves. To do so, we must take a stand for being empowered, and then take action within that context—regardless of our circumstances.