The Power of Empowering Those Around You: 6 Signs that you may not be an empowering leader

Nov 1, 2021 | Uncategorized

I was asked the other day “what is a topic that often comes up in your coaching conversations?”.

After a little thought I responded with “Leaders and managers underestimate the value and the benefit of empowering those around them.”. The conversations often don’t start off around the topic of empowerment, it could be about team effectiveness or morale, however, through some thoughtful insight, the conversations often end up there. It’s interesting that this idea is arrived at from an unasked question. People aren’t asking “how do I empower my team?”, although perhaps they should be.

If empowerment is based on the belief that people have the ability and want to take on more responsibility and leadership is based on taking people from where they are to where they have not been, than it may serve us well to ask – does my approach empower or discourage?

I believe the decision to give those around us a greater sense of empowerment is what differentiates a good leader from a great one. Here are a few questions to help determine where you are along that journey.

6 signs that you are discouraging more than empowering those around you (and how to address them).

Q. Do you feel responsible for having all the answers?
This is a well-known symptom of not being able to let go. The instinct to help others solve their problems is a strong one; the thing is, how can you be expected to know all of the answers? You may have an answer but is it the best answer?
A. Ask yourself – who is more informed about this than I am?

Q. Are you asking for input but not really listening?
​We’ve all been there, we are asked for our opinions or ideas but nothing comes of it. Why ask if they aren’t going to do anything with it? I’m not talking about the Company-wide Engagement Survey (that’s a whole subject to itself) but rather in a team meeting or one-on-one conversation. If you ask for feedback (which is a great first step!) are you really open to different ideas?
A. Ask yourself – How can I show my team that I have heard them?

Q. Does your team disagree with you?
If people are hesitant to show that they disagree with you, they likely don’t feel they can be open with their ideas. This can be a result of people not feeling safe enough to share their difference of opinions and worry that expressing themselves could have negative impacts.
A. Ask yourself – What can I do to build trust?

Q. Are you doing most of the talking?
Sharing information is necessary, however, do you get to the end of your meeting and ask for input and get nothing but *crickets*? This could indicate that your approach is more of a one way street. There may be an approach to take that will get people sharing their expertise and ideas that you hadn’t thought of.
A. Ask yourself – What can I implement that will create two-way dialogue?

Q. Do you need to take control to get the results you need?
When we don’t take the time to develop the functionality of a team it won’t work well when the usual conditions change. They grow to expect things a certain way rather than knowing how to excel in self-managed situations. This not only puts you as the leader in a very inflexible (and stressful) position but it also doesn’t create the conditions for trust and empowerment.
A. Ask yourself – What can I teach my team that will increase their collective effectiveness?

Consider your answers to these questions. If you answered yes, you have an opportunity to implement new approaches that could not only have a tremendous impact on your team effectiveness and their morale but also your abilities as a great leader. One of the most frustrating states a person can be in is when they don’t feel valued for their opinions or trusted to provide their expertise. You have the ability to change that by acknowledging these signs and building your competency of empowerment. I truly believe that one of the keys to team and individual success is through enabling those around us to thrive.