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9 Principles of Empowerment We're Seldom Taught

We wrote about empowerment last post and hopefully cleared up some of the confusion about what empowerment is and isn’t. This week, we’d like to continue exploring empowerment by presenting 9 principles well worth remembering.

1. While empowerment is a personal decision and cannot be bestowed on others, we can encourage, stimulate, provide adequate support, and model empowerment within a culture of accountability.

2. As we presented in our post last week, the three key elements for empowerment to take root: capability, clarity, and commitment.

3. For empowerment to function effectively, responsibility must be understood to be unique and simultaneous, which means that everyone involved is 100% responsible in their own role in the project or situation.

4. While job roles are useful for defining our primary functions within an organization or team, they can also create unnecessary limitations or, on the other hand, be too vague. Clarity is essential (see last week’s blog for more details.

5. Harboring biases and limiting assumptions and preconceptions leads to limiting behavior or inaction and creates limited outcomes (see our blog on biases for additional ideas).

6. Being 100% responsible means asking, “What can I do, who else do?” “Who else do I need to involve?” and “What can I do about the elements that are beyond my personal control to make sure that this situation is properly resolved or this goal gets met?”

7. In an empowered setting, responsibility and accountability are flip sides of the same coin. Responsibility is the mindset I enter a situation with, and accountability is my willingness to own the outcome—successful or not— without excuses. Such an approach generates tremendous learning opportunities and greatly increases the likelihood that one’s full capability will be accessed to find a solution or to meet a goal.

8. Peer coaching and accountability partners are a highly effective method for encouraging empowerment within a team or organization.

9. Change is driven by inspiration or crisis. One leads to proactive, whole-brained thinking. The other is reactive and leads to the fight or flight response.

We present these elements in more detail in Chapter Twelve of our book on Thriving in Business and Life, and go on to compare surviving to thriving with four examples. It’s helpful to see the either/or scenarios and realize just how much power we have, simply by seeing ourselves as the owners of the outcomes we produce and acting accordingly.

There's a huge paradigm shift in our thinking and our ability to act when we realize that empowerment is not dependent upon outside circumstances. Thankfully, many of us are awakening to the incredible capacity we have to direct our own lives, regardless of the seemingly disempowering situations we may find ourselves in.

For instance, we may be struggling within a dysfunctional marriage. We may be deeply dissatisfied with our job, longing to break free and actualize our personal potential. We may have health challenges that our doctor can’t solve. Regardless of the situation, being empowered means being realistic about our circumstances, while also determining what we can do that best serves us, our people, and the community around us.

Yes, others will likely need to help us but the solution begins with our willingness to own the results and choices in our lives and the impact our actions have. That realization is the foundation of empowerment.

Here’s your Thriving challenge for the week:

“Pick a colleague and, with your new understanding of empowerment,

make it a priority this week to encourage this person

to take ownership for their choices, actions, and the results they produce.

Perhaps they can do the same for you.”

Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson

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