Before You Empower, Enable!

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One of the buzzwords today is “empowerment.” We want our people to have greater autonomy, have more say in making decisions that affect the company and generally having higher stakes in the company’s future success. So, we get lots of advice about how to get out of the way, lead from the rear, let people do their stuff and so forth. Which is all well and good, provided one critical condition is fulfilled. The people we have must be mature.

Yes, I said mature. That does not refer to advanced chronological age, the presence of PhDs and MBAs or proof of pedigree. It does not refer to IQ, EQ or being a solid fit when put through a battery of psychometric assessments. It does refer to a person who has consistently demonstrated benevolence, decisiveness, punctuality, dependability, initiative, creativity, hospitality, sensitivity, discernment, wisdom and virtue, to name a few qualities, and who is know to be constantly sharpening his saw where these qualities are concerned. It is about people who seek credentialing of their own accord and will work extra hard at getting that credential in as effective a manner as possible without whining about whether you, the employer, pays for it!

Empowering people who are not mature is like giving the controls of a submarine to someone whose sole experience with submarines has been playing submarine-related video games and watching movies where submarines have been included as part of the plot. Power in the hands of immature, irresponsible children masquerading as adults does not help one bit.

You get the picture. When empowering your people, caveat dominus, so to speak!

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