Insight

Managers must empower their workforce to attain new levels of performance through participative work practices and the delegation of authority and responsibility. Empowerment, however, can’t simply be conferred. It has to grow. How can you foster conditions that will lead to empowerment in your organisation?

Tackle the barriers to empowerment
One of the first steps in empowering your staff is to deal with blockages to the empowering process and to overcome them. Examples of such barriers would include:
* Doubt that the system is sincerely committed to empowerment.
* Suspicion that ’empowerment’ is simply another fad or buzzword. feeling that ‘what we do won’t make any difference anyway’.
* Unhappiness with new roles that may be required. Reluctance to accept added responsibility without additional pay.
* Dislike of frequent meetings.
* Lack of time to take on the extra load.
* Unwillingness to give up authority and preference for the comfort of routine.
* Concern that others may not carry their weight or share the increased workload.
* Fear of failure or, for some, success.
Many of these feats can be overcome if you strive to cultivate conditions that foster climate of empowerment.

Develop climate of trust
Trust is the mortar for the bricks of empowerment. You can’t have empowerment without trust at every level of your organisation. Trust breeds climate of mutual respect that is conducive to open, frank discussions. Set the example: build trust by keeping your word and discussing your concerns openly.
Open the channels of communication
Communication is the key to empowerment. As an empowering leader you not only need to communicate well, but you also need to facilitate communication among all staff. You must foster not only the movement of ideas and information to and from yourself, but also to, from, and between every other unit within the organisation. And by sharing feelings, goals, and information you ultimately build sense of community within your group. So, practise empowering communication:
* Share your knowledge and skills.
* Offer and welcome constructive criticism or suggestions.
* Work with others in planning projects and initiatives.
* Respect the views of others by listening attentively.
* Form network with others to hear and offer new ideas and information.
* Keep everyone in touch with news, ideas, suggestions and information.
* Reduce the isolation of individuals and groups.

Foster creativity and risk-taking
Empowered people are willing to take personal and professional risks. By so doing, they gain new insights about themselves, meet challenges, stretch their limits, solve problems and test their mettle. They grow in self-assurance and, in turn, are better able to empower others.
Listen to and support new ideas in your organisation.

Be aware of your changed role
In sharing power, you may feel you are giving up long-held authority. But you are, in fact, increasing your power because power shared is power multiplied. In an empowered organisation, instead of ‘controlling subordinates for the good of the organisation’ you now embrace consultative and consensus-building role.

Be supportive
Show ongoing support for your staff:
* Focus on results and acknowledge personal improvement.
* Foster climate in which people enjoy what they do and are recognised for their contributions to the organisation.
* Help staff succeed. Be tolerant, sympathetic, and encouraging.
* Ensure resources are readily available.
* Promote understanding and support of staff efforts by focusing public attention, through media, newsletters and ceremonies, on outstanding work.

Encourage personal and professional development
Knowledge and skills are power – so personal and professional development is important for empowerment. Consider such strategies as these:
* Consult with staff about the types of professional development and training they need and provide it, along with the necessary time.
• Give staff time to think, plan, share and learn from each other.
• Involve staff in discussions about budgets, staffing, resourcing, and so on.
• Encourage them to share with others what they have learned from training courses and reading.
• Provide technology along with adequate training and technical support.

Management Memo
Empowerment is not an external event but rather an internal one; that is, not something that I ‘do to someone’ but rather something that they decide to ‘do for themselves’.

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