Don’t Just Empower: 4 Ways to Share Power

Power Sharing

It was a lesson I learned playing tug-of-war in gym class: None of us is as powerful as all of us.

Even the weakest of us had power that could make a difference.  Nobody had to “empower” us.

Empowerment is a concept that on the surface sounds good, until you really think about what it means.  The prefix “em” means to “put into.”  To empower people is to put power into them, to enable them to do something.  Well, that’s better than complete domination, but it is still top-down control.

What if companies went beyond mere empowerment and instead maximized everyone’s power?

Not power to dominate.  Power to liberate.  Power to create.  Power to share.

Shared power leads to shared knowledge.  Shared knowledge leads to better performance.  Better performance leads to better results.

Here are 4 ways to get started with power sharing:

  1. Ask. Ask people, “What do you need to provide your best value to this organization?” or, “What needs to change for you to provide your best value?”
  2. Share information and resources.  Provide information and resources (including training) that others may not even realize can help them provide their best value.
  3. Share roles and responsibilities.  Consider co-facilitation of meetings, for example.  Some roles and responsibilities could even be rotated, which will also deepen empathy and understanding among team members.  Or, you could let someone who reports to you at work attend a meeting in your place.
  4. Share reasons.  Better yet, develop the reasons “why” together.  People buy in to what they help create.

How have you shared power?

“In the past a leader was a boss.  Today’s leaders must be partners with their people . . . they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.” –Ken Blanchard

This post is 4th in the series 7 Principles of Making Relationships Work at Work.

This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus:  How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus


Stop the Complaining at Work!

Are you tired of workplace drama?  Would you like to nip complaining in the bud but still show that you are listening?  How would you like 3 simple techniques to help you do just that?

Marlene Chism, author of Stop the Workplace Drama, shared 3 techniques at the end of a recent teleseminar:

1. Technique #1 Four Words

When people are complaining and want to draw you into their drama, let them know that you hear them and understand what they’re saying, but get them into positive problem-solving mode by asking, “What do you want?” as in, “I hear what you’re saying.  Here’s my question:  What do you want?” (said with no eye-rolling or raised voice, but with respect).

2. Technique #2 Empowerment Technique

Get people out of the victim mode and get yourself out of the rescue mode by asking, “What are your choices?”  It may take a while to get people out of the mindset of running to you to solve their problems, but empower them by asking this question.

3. Technique #3 Collaboration Technique

Encourage collaboration in problem solving by asking, “Are you willing to . . .” type questions, such as “Are you willing to think about your choices and come back at 2 pm to talk about them?”

If a person is not willing to do something, then there would be some sort of consequences resulting from that choice.  For example, if you say, “Are you willing to come in 5 minutes early to make sure that you can be at your desk on time?” and the person says “No,”  then a consequence might be loss of the job after a certain number of  late starts.

Create movement toward employee empowerment with these three phrases when people complain:

“What do you want?”

“What are your choices?

“Are you willing to . . .”

Try them out at work, at home and in your volunteer organizations!