The Fertilized Soil – Putting “Power” Back In Empowerment

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Aug 13, 2012 in Building Confidence, Thinking Positive |

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As busy professionals looking to move our practices and careers ahead, we can lose sight of how important empowering others around us can contribute to our own success.  Sometimes, we view training someone on a task or area of technical expertise as a time consuming activity when ultimately it can be a timesaving investment if we give that person responsibility for something that we don’t necessarily have to do ourselves and empower them in the process.

In the planting technique known as “companion planting”, three complimentary crops are planted close together in a cluster which fertilizes the soil and helps the plants grow stronger. For instance, grouping corn, beans, and squash is the traditional planting method of certain Native American groups. The corn acts a natural pole for bean vines to climb, while the beans add nitrogen to the soil improving the fertility of the plot. Bean vines can also help stabilize the corn stalks which keep them from blowing over in strong wind. Squash acts as a living mulch that provides shade to emerging weeds and helps to retain soil moisture. The prickly squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans. The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure. The plants, in effect, empower each other to grow.

In the traditional situational leadership model developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, empowerment is used as a cooperative form of personal power as compared to competitive or self-protective power. It is also proactive, positive, and constructive. An effective leader should actively seek to increase the readiness level or capabilities of those around them and within the groups they are leading.

Empowerment is the power to accomplish your own goals, or helping others achieve theirs, through the process of group potency, meaningfulness, autonomy and impact.

Groups, as a whole, profit from their members gaining the ability to succeed together and be effective as a team. The team also needs to have the perception that the tasks they perform are necessary and valuable, not menial and trite. For a group to accomplish their goals, independence allows members to voice ideas and opinions that will aid in the ultimate success of a task. Autonomy does not imply that you abandon supervision entirely, but that such supervision is not constraining to the group. Finally, the thoughts and reflections of outside individuals on the group and its accomplishments are also significant and if sentiments of the group and its work are not positive, this will eventually duplicate in the minds of the members and can withdraw empowerment.

Business owners and leaders have often withheld empowerment because they have concerns about employees having the confidence and skill to leave and take the business with them. The question becomes, if those people felt empowered by their leaders, would they leave in the first place? People need to learn and grow, no matter their job title or level. Empowering someone could take the form of transitioning a simple activity like a weekly or monthly report from your workload giving the employee responsibility and accountability for that action. Or, it could be something more daunting like turning over a portion of client service on a large account. No matter what specific tasks you choose to relinquish, helping someone else learn and grow in their current position will help your practice learn and grow over time.

What steps can you take this week to empower someone around you, fertilizing the soil, which will ultimately increase your own productivity and personal success?

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