Empowerment, or the process of empowering, is not a goal as much as the action that results from it. Empowerment is a catalyst for action – or inaction if not done well. The dictionary defines empowering as the process of investing another with power. The coaching version defines empowering as the process of bringing out the client’s best by connecting them with their own source of unlimited energy by reminding them of what they already know about themselves.
Part of your role as a coach to your employees (and patients) is to empower – literally to either reflect to your client how they can access an outer source of power, or help them access their own reservoir of personal power. You can only be a temporary source of power for an employee, not a long-term source.
Empowerment is stimulated through many different sources, both from within and without. Help employees explore these sources and assist them to become familiar with how our senses, our values, our experiences and any number of other inputs can be sources of empowerment. Perhaps the ultimate is to be empowered by everyone and everything in our lives. Every piece of information, every event – whether perceived initially as “good” or “bad” – every person and every situation can be a source of empowerment. You can show them the difference between empowerment and dis-empowerment, and the choices they make to allow one or the other. It is enabled through constant and continuous pieces given to the client in presenting moments.
How can you practice empowering your employees?
– Ask for far more than the person has done before.
– Be unconditionally constructive in everything you say, yet say it all.
– Create a wide enough gap between where the person is and where they want to be.
– Create possibility where there isn’t enough before you set goals.
– Empower the employee to solve their own problems
– Endorse, endorse, endorse – this propels most people to be their best
– Focus on the person’s strengths, not their weaknesses
– Get the person into action, not just discussion
– Set up more than enough structure to support better behavior
There are many ways to empower an employee; some will work better than others, depending on the employee. You must listen carefully and respond with sensitivity to what the employee needs in order to become empowered to action. There are six important methods that are basic tools in the empowering process:
• Focus on Strengths
• Wanting for
• Removing Barriers
Every employee needs endorsement. Masterfully articulating support, confidence, or recognition of the Employee is invaluable to the process they are undertaking. Endorsement does not come naturally to most of us. Often, without the focused development of this method, endorsement sounds like we are trying to pump the other person up. Or, we sound patronizing, certainly without meaning to. In general conversation, we tend to say nothing because we are afraid we will sound insincere if we are too encouraging.
Focus on Strengths
Many people are so full of guilt or thoughts over what else they could be doing, that they have yet to surrender to and be grateful for all they do have. This growth step (acceptance and gratitude) is essential for happiness and an invaluable empowering phase. You help the employee to get through this step by focusing on strengths and having these articulated strengths “become enough” for the employee.
Employees often need to know that you are on their side, standing up for their success, even in the face of reality, problems and diversions. Wanting a lot for your client helps to establish goals beyond what the client can see and reminds them that you are their advocate and supporter in their success. You may need to reveal these “want fors” to the employee as a form of feedback based on careful listening. You become the client’s champion for their success by wanting only the very best for your clients.
Removing barriers is about identifying and eliminating (as much as possible) the obstacles that keep a person from being empowered. For each person, there may be many these barriers, including:
– Limiting beliefs (typically with the client for a long time)
– I can’t syndrome (can originate from real failure or just imagined)
– Unwillingness to take risks (generally due to disempowerment and can become a cycle)
– Judgment of others (dodging responsibility)
– Blaming (more dodging of responsibility)
– Laziness (not willing to act or do the work involved to succeed)
– Procrastination (always what they are “going” to do)
– Low self-esteem (a condition that tends to be a habit – can be broken)
– “Shoulds” (living the life someone else wants for you)
Share what you sense, see and know. Your opinions and insights matter and are integral to an empowering relationship. Directness involves speaking your mind using laser phrasing and an honest approach that moves the employee forward, but does not blast them with the truth. Directness is not bluntness or speaking with no regard for the employee’s feelings. Directness can be a weapon without careful development.
The natural universe always attempts to fill in a vacuum and so will your employees when you are quiet. Silence is an advanced skill, one that calls on you to have patience, faith and willingness for the employee to work things out for themselves. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. It is our natural tendency to jump in and fix things.