The concept of empowerment is discussed by many supervisors, managers and executives as though it is their main approach to directing and motivating employees–and sometimes with a bit of arrogance about it: “I hereby send you forth to do things you think would be good to do. Isn’t it impressive that I’m showing confidence in you low-level employees?”
The reality is that telling employees they are empowered (authorized) to make decisions about their work is not always wise or even truthful. Doing so without guidelines or any requirement for supervisory or managerial approval can lead to serious problems. On the other hand, telling employees they are empowered, then frequently not approving their recommended actions, creates feelings that they were lied to about their authority. Perhaps the solution is to be sure everyone involved is defining and applying empowerment in the same way.
1. Are there requirements, limitations, restrictions, preferences or criteria for decisions and actions? If so, employees do not have carte blanche (full discretionary power). Let them know their limitations ahead of time. The most reasonable one is that employees must get approval from a supervisor before stopping one task to work on something preferred by the employee or before implementing a change in established procedures, allocating organizational resources or doing anything that could have an effect on the reputation or effectiveness of the organization.
Another criteria to consider: Will it be OK if the employee decides to not do something or to stop doing something or is empowerment only about innovation and improvement?
2. Is the employee trained, experienced and mentally and emotionally ready to be given authority over important decisions–and to accept responsibility for bad results just as they are to accept compliments for good results? One of the requirements for using power effectively is knowing the likely results of one’s actions. Not all supervisors, managers and executives are as knowledgeable as they should be, but they usually have a better idea of the Big Picture than the average employee who has not had the opportunity to see all of it.
That is another reason for limitations and requirements: You can bet the supervisor and manager will be held responsible for the work of employees, even when there is an ill-judged, empowered action. It would be like a football team owner telling players they are empowered to develop their own plays, then firing coaches when the plays don’t work. (Not a great analogy, but you get the idea.)
3. Is the word empowerment merely a way to encourage self-confidence, professional development and a feeling of belonging to the group or the organization? Many executives tell employees they are empowered, as a way to say that everyone is important and should look for ways to feel good about themselves and their work. If an employee can only suggest or propose, they really have no power over anything except their own attitudes and performance.
The bottom line: Each of us have the power to improve our work quality and quantity.
*We have the power to be a positive addition to the workplace, in spite of reasons to feel otherwise.
*We have the power to carefully consider our own work and suggest improvements in processes and procedures, then accept the yes or no about it.
*We have the power to be and do many things, without waiting to be told we are empowered.
Managers and supervisors should add to each employee’s feelings of strength and accomplishment by complimenting good work and giving correction and guidance for improvement. They should communicate the message that everyone can be a valued contributor by doing their work to a high standard while continuously seeking to improve their knowledge and skills.
Every employee, at every level, can be powerfully effective and powerfully proud of what they have achieved–a worthy goal for any organization, group or individual.
Marie Antoinette didn’t say “Let them eat cake.”
Marie Antoinette (1768-Wagenshon)
I know the quotation attributed to Marie Antoinette is in error and she almost certainly did not say it or anything like it. (Check out the many Internet references about the infamous non-quote.) However, it has taken its place in history as an example of supreme ignorance about the reality of a situation. It also is an example of thinking that one’s own reality is the only one there is. We can benefit from being careful about expressing opinions and judgments based on our own realities, when we are ignorant of the reality of others.
“Why do they have babies if they can’t feed them?” I recall, with embarrassment, when I was a very young woman and heard a missionary speak about starving children in a war-torn African country. The slides were horrific and then–as now–it was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to see the despair in the eyes of mothers and children. Later I talked to the speaker and said, (I blush to admit it), “Why do they have babies if they can’t feed them?” He looked at me with disgust and I hope some pity, and said, “Well, very young lady from Kansas, first, they have no way to prevent conception except abstinence and second, they have no choice about abstaining. They don’t ‘get pregnant’ they are impregnated. Your comment shows how far you are from understanding the problem.”
That ignorance on my part, as well as other personal examples, is one of the many reasons I truly work at trying to understand the big picture of almost everything. Often there is some aspect of a situation that I have failed to consider and once I consider it I have a different opinion. Often I can at least see there are multiple issues involved and there are no one-sided solutions. It’s one reason I don’t get involved in political discussions or arguments on topics about which I don’t have a lot of knowledge–that pretty much covers most things.
Closed Minds and Ignorant Remarks
“How dare the government interfere with good parenting? Recently I read an article by a writer who was outraged (a word that is certainly overused on the Internet) about an ad campaign in a major city, encouraging women to not have their babies sleeping with them. Commenters wrote of boycotting the city and writing letters to the mayor. One said she was sick and tired of the government interfering with good parenting and she equated it to government agents going door to door to take away our constitutional rights. One said it made her even more determined to co-sleep with her baby. (Good for her, that will teach the government a lesson they won’t soon forget.)
They are ignorant of the reality that not all mothers and fathers are educated about the dangers of suffocation, not all mothers or fathers are sleeping with a caring partner, and not all parents are capable of protecting an infant sleeping with them in a bed or on a sofa or on a mattress on the floor or in the backseat of a car. There had been several infant suffocation deaths in that city within the previous few months and the ads were an effort to protect babies. There was no law about it, merely an effort to educate. The outrage of the writer and commenters is based on their reality of a clean bed with only one or two sober or conscious people in it–and they think everyone lives like that. They need a bigger picture of reality before they boycott the city.
“Why doesn’t he leave us alone and let us do our jobs?” Recently an acquaintance was complaining about his new supervisor’s requirements for various tasks. The requirements sounded absurd to me so I figured there had to be other perspectives the employee wasn’t considering. Sure enough, there were. After he explained what had been going on before the new supervisor arrived, he said he could see why the new supervisor would need to make changes. He still didn’t like all of the changes but he could understand them and work within them. He also decided to communicate more positively with the supervisor so he could share his own views and opinions.
“How can they justify…..?” “Why don’t they…..? (Said about almost anything the angry or frustrated person doesn’t do, doesn’t agree with or doesn’t understand.) Every topic about which one view holds that other views are evil, crazy, stupid or in error, can often benefit from being examined to find other perspectives. There are a few things in this world that are definitely right and wrong but most are not so certain. Challenge yourself, every time you hear outrage, absolute judgments and angry statements that do not consider other views, to look for those other perspectives and at least consider them and the impact they have on the situation.
Then, challenge yourself to purposely avoid the equivalent of saying someone or some group should eat cake, unless you know for sure and with expertise what you’re talking about.
Can You Be Yourself In Your Assessment Center?
Someone who knows my thoughts about how to best prepare for an Assessment Center copied a review of my book from the Amazon site and sent it to me, indignant over how wrong he thought it was. The reviewer gave me five stars and essentially said my book proves his belief that you can’t do well in an Assessment Center promotional process if you say what you really think and use your real experiences.
I assume the person who wrote the review had participated in an Assessment Center and didn’t get promoted and saw someone he didn’t respect or like get promoted instead. Or perhaps he read my book and decided he didn’t even want to test because he thought he would have act phony to do well. I’m sorry about that and I know he would feel differently if he fully understood the process or had talked to experienced assessors.
Often a candidate will not rate as high as he expected and assume one thing he said in one exercise was the sole cause. Assessment Center results are based on more than one or two ratings. In a typical process a candidate may receive 45 ratings (3 exercises x 5 competency areas x 3 assessors). Unless a candidate says something that is outrageously wrong or offensive it will have very little effect on his or her overall results. Another thing to consider is that a candidate usually does not have access to the notes or discussions of assessors, so he would not know all of the issues upon which they based their ratings. Even if he received a feedback report, it only summarizes a few notes, not all.
I replied to the reviewer’s comments and asked him to contact me six to eight months before his next test, so I can send some additional material and maybe talk to him about it. I want to help him see that he can use his experiences and personal philosophies, if they reflect the best practices of the profession and are appropriate for the testing exercises in which he is participating.
How Effective Is The Real You?
Even if you are not in the law enforcement profession or are not participating in promotional testing, you may feel that you must submerge your real feelings, your fundamental beliefs and your real personality, to be successful or accepted. If it is true, you may be in the wrong work, school or personal setting or trying to get into the wrong setting. Find the place or situation where you can flourish. Or, you may find you can flourish where you are if you adjust or change some aspects of what you consider to be the real you.
It’s hard to accept, but often we have habits, peculiarities, traits, idiosyncrasies, opinions and foibles that cause others to reject us–and until we make some changes we will never be fully successful. Or, like some very successful people have found–they could save themselves a lot of trouble and stress if they weren’t the real them quite so often!
What is waiting for you?
July 14, 2015 will always be a date in the history of NASA and an important date for astronomers and all of us who are interested in the cosmos. New Horizons, the NASA space probe, planned since 1990 and launched in 2006, flew by Pluto, the small planet, one sixth the size of earth and smaller than our moon, and took a photo for us. As it turns out, Pluto has a heart-shape on the visible side (although some heartless people have said it looks like a cosmic giant sat down and left an imprint). I prefer the heart image, because it can seem that Pluto has been waiting four and half billion years to say, “Hi, Earth! I love you!” (Probably followed by a muttered, “Now, go away and don’t mess me up, too.”)
Here is what I like about all of it: We didn’t just now discover Pluto and it wasn’t recently formed, it has been there all this time. We didn’t expect to “get something” from it, we just wanted to say we have seen it and we know it better than before. The motivation to explore Pluto from above was primarily because most humans are gifted with a desire to keep searching for new horizons–in our solar system and in our lives and spirits.
What is waiting for you? The test of optimism and courage for many of us is to have faith that no matter what our age or our past experiences, something good is patiently waiting for us–and it may have been there all along. (However, you’ll notice that Pluto didn’t come to us, we went to Pluto. Life is like that.)
Hey, Pluto! I ♥ You Too!
In the book and the movie, The Shining, by Stephen King, author Jack Torrance types constantly on his novel and becomes more deranged as time passes. When his wife looks at his manuscript, she is horrified to see page after page after page filled with the same sentence: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
That is a sadly accurate metaphor for a lot of the wasted time, ineffective busy-work and wheel-spinning that keeps many people from moving forward, getting somewhere and achieving their dreams and goals.
Setting goals is no problem for most of us—we have set hundreds of them in our lifetime. Often we have set the same two or three goals hundreds of times. Here at the beginning of 2015 ask yourself some pertinent questions about your life, work, finances, health and fitness:
1.) If I could wave a magic wand and make one or more aspects of my life different, what would those things be?
2.) What are the things that I could achieve on my own, no magic needed and humanly possible, even though it might be difficult–perhaps very, very difficult?
3.) What do I need to do EVERY DAY, instead of, or in addition to, what I am now doing, if I want to accomplish each of those things?
4.) Based on my history, what is likely to keep me from sticking to it until my goals, hopes or wishes are accomplished? Is it humanly possible for me to overcome those obstacles?
5.) Considering each of my goals: If I do achieve them, is it probable that I’ll decide it wasn’t worth the effort of sticking to it? How will I feel?
6.) Do I have what it takes in courage, conviction and commitment to do what it takes, every day, to move forward and finally be able to move past this goal line?
You may have other ways of motivating yourself or keeping on track for achieving goals, but those six questions can add to your spirit of resolution for 2015. Stop typing the same old things and fill this year’s pages with your accomplishments!
Send me an email to let me know how you’re doing with your magical wishes AKA goals. Or, use the contact form. I don’t publish personal messages and will be happy to hear from you.
Dark waters and a winding trail. Photo by Casey McCorison
If you are suffering from anything–pain, health problems, emotional turmoil, addictions or disorders of any kind or personal or work problems that keep you awake and feeling out of control–you may have found that wishing for relief can become a constant background noise that is almost as distracting as the suffering. Today I read two brief articles written by the same person, Dr. Christine Lasich, which provided some new perspectives for me–and which I realized can be applied to other situations as well.
Dr. Lasich specializes in physical therapy and rehabilitation and has a spinal-pain practice in California. For the last couple of years I have read her Healing Journal (she posts infrequently, but I re-read the old posts). I believe she is sincerely committed to trying to help those who have painful conditions.
Today, I read an article she wrote for the Health Central Site, Five Principles for Treating Both Pain and Addiction. As I read it I was impressed with her concise, logical steps for dealing with a complex problem. They may be well-known from other literature on the topic, but I liked her way of expressing them.
What is the painful part of your life? As I read and thought about those five steps, I thought they could be applied to all of the things that can cause us pain, suffering, unhappiness and discomfort:
*Physical pain and health problems of any kind–both short term and those that are not ever going away.
*Food and drink addictions and disorders: sugar, diet and regular soda, caffeine, specific foods or just quantities of food in general, yo-yo dieting, food obsessions, etc.
*Dependencies and disorders: relationships, a “broken heart” and “heartache”, a specific person who is a negative element, family relationships, money and debt, excessive behaviors, destructive habits and chronic problems that you may have struggled with forever. All the things that you wish were better in your life.
The Five Principles For Treating Both Pain and Addiction are, in brief:
1. Provide Chemical Stability.
2. Motivate for Change.
3. Relieve Suffering
4. Infuse Resiliency
5. Improve Health
Read Dr. Lasich’s very short article to understand how those are applied. Then, do some sit-down thinking to adapt the Five Principles to your situation. I think you will find that the process of reading the article and adapting the principles can start to provide some relief from the pain–any kind of pain–you are feeling. (It’s part of infusing resiliency!) Contact me, if you wish, to let me know how you were able to apply the concepts. I don’t publish personal notes and am happy to hear from anyone who wants to share some thoughts.
1964: Goldwater, Ann Margaret, The Beatles, Annette, Bill Holden and Jackie Kennedy
Just about fifty years ago, this was a version of People magazine.
*I wonder how far Annette thought she would go after she was engaged? And did she?
*Why was William Holden stalked by death? (He was a favorite actor of mine, who many nowadays don’t know about, unless they watch great old movies.)
*Would you vote for or against Goldwater? (I was a member of Youth for Goldwater.)
*What about the Beatles? In our high school talent show, some of the boys wore mops on their heads and sang, “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” Their hair doesn’t look all that long, does it?
*There is the obligatory sexy cover photo–tame by today’s standards. I can’t picture Ann Margaret twerking.
*And, of course, the reference at the top, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy leaving Jacqueline a widow with two children and an uncertain future. Jackie Kennedy had a lot to deal with in her life and I never fully understood that until I read more about her in later years.
That’s a week in 1964. Save a magazine or print out an Internet article this week and your children will enjoy it in 2064.
That Fresh, New Uniform Feeling
In 1972 or so, women officers on the Denver Police Department were given navy blue shirts to replace the white Ship and Shore blouses we had worn with our skirts prior to that time. In a few months, the skirts changed to pants (men’s pants, which didn’t fit very well, but which worked until we got women’s style pants later.)
You can almost see me saying, “Take my picture!” I was thrilled to have that crisp, new shirt and could hardly wait to get to work. Most of us have had that feeling about work, at some point. Sadly, it goes away quickly for many people and occasionally is hard to dredge up, even for the most motivated. Here is a way to freshen your thinking:
Tomorrow, pretend it is your first day on your job. Wake up excited to start, just as you did on whatever date you started. Get to work and organize your desk or supplies or locker or whatever you work with. Look around at your work space as though you are new and getting things set up, just-so. Think about your salary and having steady employment and how much better that is than looking through the Employment Ads.
Whatever benefits there are about your workplace, notice them and appreciate them fully. Coffee machines, vending machines, kitchenettes, clean bathrooms, supplies, heating and air conditioning, are relatively new features in workplaces. Not all office workers have them and no one who labors outside has those niceties.
Of course, that won’t make the problematic coworker become pleasant and it doesn’t change some of the stressful situations, but it can help you think about the alternatives.
The bottom line is this: Now and then, metaphorically, put on your fresh, new, navy blue shirt and be happy to have a place to go to work.
From www.remember.com– an interesting website.
Hackneyed: A phrase or action that is used so many times it becomes commonplace and dull.
My mother, Creola Kincaid Lewis, told me that her parents ordered her to stop making Egyptian-dancer hand gestures after she had done it dozens of times in one evening. Those hand gestures were popular with teenaged girls that year–1924–because King Tut’s tomb with all its well-persevered artifacts had been discovered and was a cultural phenomenon.
My grandfather, Henry Kincaid, said, “Sis, a few times was funny, but now you’re overdoing it, so stop it.” We could all use that advice.
I won’t give them further attention by listing the popular once-funny-or-cute-or significant-but-now-overdone and hackneyed phrases or actions that distract from communications or reduce it to a trite level. I will just challenge you to notice yourself and vow to reduce the number of times you do, say or write that thing. Then, replace it with something more sincere, personal or original.
Most of us also have figures of speech, comments and opinions that we have said, using the same words every time, hundreds of times, to the point of dullness. Someone I know says, in almost every conversation, “I was a multi-tasker before multi-tasking was a word.” The first time she said it, it was an interesting addition to her comments. After hearing her say it hundreds of times, Henry Kincaid would tell her to stop it.
You can test yourself in several ways:
*What phrases do you use repeatedly that you think are particularly impressive, insightful, funny or current?
*What are the ways you describe yourself or others that immediately come to mind when you’re talking?
*What are the phrases you have read on the Internet or heard on a talk-show or TV or in a movie, that you have adopted for daily use?
Listen to yourself and be on the lookout for overused, hackneyed expressions. Even though you may think it is no worries if you don’t, those who communicate with you regularly will think you are awesome if you do. I’ll do a little Egyptian-dancer gesture to celebrate!
I recently attended a high school class reunion. If you must know, it was my 50th year high school reunion, for Arkansas City, Kansas Senior High. I graduated when I was 5 or 6.
My high school friend, Sara Bly, worked like crazy to compile a DVD of video and PowerPoint, complete with music and comprised of old photos, scans of newspaper articles and other memorabilia. I helped by nagging her about it and making copies of her final product. It’s truly a masterpiece and I encourage you to start saving items now, no matter what your age, so your high school class can do something similar. (Even if right now you don’t think you care.)
As I looked over the photos, I realized, more than ever before, how many classmates have passed away. Their stories stopped right after high school or years later. Some were killed in Viet Nam, some died in car accidents, many fought cancer bravely until the end, heart failure took some and several ended their own lives.
The girl on the left is Tina Springgate, a funny and very intelligent girl and woman, who died from cancer shortly after our 30th reunion. She and I were on the Debate Team and she also was on the staff of the school paper,The Arklight. The last time I saw Tina she told me, “You’ll get to be the only ‘Tina’ before long.”
The girl on the right is Leslie Neal, my co-Feature Editor on the paper. We also co-wrote a column called, “Gleanings from the Grapevine”, in which we made what we thought were hysterically witty comments about various things around school, especially about the teachers. Leslie committed suicide when she was in her early twenties and I’ve never known why. I found out later that she was living in Denver at the time and I’ve wondered if I could have said or done something to make a difference–probably not, but I would have liked to try.
I’m in the middle, smiling with the other two–none of us having any idea what life would hold or how soon it would be over for two of us three.
I’ve included the photo of Tina Springgate, Leslie and me, not to be sad or morose about it, but to say that photos are still the best way to capture our memories. Even a written journal benefits from a photo or two of the author and others. However, take them in a way that gives people a chance to look their best and to smile for the camera, rather than the candid, often embarrassing photos you might take with your phone/camera when no one is prepared. A few candid shots are OK, but most women want to be ready to be photographed and both men and women look better when they are sitting or standing still, have their mouths closed and are looking moderately happy.
Tell people a day ahead of time that the next day is photo day for those who agree. Don’t force someone to get their picture taken, just let them see that you’re not making a huge production out of it. If your supervisor or manager is available, have a photo-op so people can get pictures taken with him or her. Some people will decline, but almost everyone who gets his or her photo taken with the boss, will be glad about it later.
In the 1970’s, Paul Anka sang the Nichols/Lane song that became a Kodak standard, “The Times of Your Life”. It’s easy for us to think of saving photos of family members and close friends, when we consider how quickly time passes. Think also of those you work with or meet with at work. Even the ones who irritate you, frustrate you or make you dislike them strongly, will one day–maybe sooner than you think–bring back worthwhile memories of that time of your life.