Empowerment – Time to Make it Real

A few years ago I wasn’t a big fan of “empowerment” – it had become a meaningless phrase, and I used to believe that people don’t need to be empowered, as they already have all the skills, strengths and talent that they need, to deliver.

I was wrong.

If a widely used word has become meaningless, it needs a meaning, and people do need to be empowered in the sense that they need to know exactly what they are allowed to do, and what they are not. It’s all very well inviting people to seek forgiveness, not permission, however how does that translate into everyday activities?

I define empowerment for you (person) as being crystal clear how much freedom you have in your role – what you are allowed to do (which is usually more than you believe you are allowed to do).

And empowerment for you (organisation) as defining what those freedoms are, while defining clear boundaries that must never be crossed.

Welcome to The Way.

The Way is best described with a football analogy. In a game of football, there are certain principles (known in football as “laws”) – length of game, off-side etc. In addition there is how each team chooses to play the game – formations, style etc. – it is these freedoms on how a manager chooses to play and what the team do week on week that make them win, or lose.

The principles are the “way we do things around here”, the absolute givens of what will and will not happen, and the freedoms are the “I will do as I please,” within the boundaries set by the principles.

Your company sets up the principles that run across everyone – keep them clear (understandable), concise (brief) and compelling (a good business reason), and ensure that as many people as possible, have a say (you will be surprised by the common view). 

The freedoms are agreed with subsidiary companies, teams, projects etc.

Both principles and freedoms are revisited as needed, and may be updated periodically. While they are in place, and clear, they may be written in people’s job descriptions and/or performance reviews. Some organisations make it a dismissible offence to break a principle.

And one thing you are absolutely empowered to do, is to do whatever you need to do, to make this real in your organisation.

With thanks to Andrew Marks

And with my love and best wishes



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