Friday, December 7, 2012

What Empowerment DOES And DOES NOT Do

Empowerment has been a theme in some recent posts.  One concerns whether or not school leaders empower teachers to deliver on the expectations of the connected/sharing society.  The other provides a simple definition of empowerment and a quick check on the level of empowerment being offered at your school.

Empowerment, however, is a tricky topic.  If you don't feel empowered, you want to be.  If you feel like you are empowering others, you want to see the results.  We rarely complain about being too empowered, but often feel we are not empowered enough.  This may be because as specific expectations change, it is difficult to place the new expectation into the current framework from which you operate.  In other words, "How does the new ___ fit into my existing paradigm?"

Of course, the challenge is that paradigms are changing constantly.  What feels like empowerment today may feel like restriction tomorrow.  Therefore, it is very important to be clear about what empowerment does and does NOT do.  Here are a few examples.

Empowerment DOES...

  • allow individuals and teams to make decisions relevant to their responsibilities
  • expect individuals and teams with responsibilities to take mission appropriate actions
  • hold responsible parties to a high standard of communication and follow through
  • create a "leadership density" among members of the organization
  • increase the chances of tapping into an undiscovered talent base among your team members
Empowerment DOES NOT...

  • guarantee positive results
  • ensure success
  • relieve anyone of school-wide responsibilities
  • give you permission to "point the finger" at someone else
  • discharge top level accountability
A wise friend once advised me that, "You can delegate responsibility, but you cannot delegate your accountability."

Empowerment follows that logic.  While empowering others does not guarantee success or positive results, it certainly places your team in the best possible position to make good on their responsibilities.  If those responsibilities are aligned with noble and forward thinking goals, the rewards of empowering others and achieving those goals greatly outweighs any risks associated with empowering your team.
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