OD Pathway #107: Power to the People

Empowerment is about giving power to others. Employees express empowerment through energy, action, and interaction. According to Watkins and Marsick, authors of Sculpting the Learning Organization, empowerment is having a sense of control over your personality, cognition, and motivation. Employees express empowerment through a sense of self-worth and wanting to make a difference in the world.

You may hear much discussion in organizations today about empowerment. Many times however, these positive discussions do not lead to real empowerment within the organization. This is because the necessary structures and cultures that create and support real empowerment are not present. 

Some say that a sense of power comes from within and that you cannot give power to someone. But in organizations, empowerment is created through the culture, practices, process, interactions, and also by the unspoken rules that employees and teams work according to. Truly empowering an organization’s people requires changing deep structures and cultures. It also begins with being aware of the common beliefs the organization has about making mistakes.

In my consulting experience, I partnered with an organization where the cultural belief was that mistakes were deadly. You mess up and you’re out! This of course, created an enormous fear of mistakes which created a culture of blame, covering up, and denial. Instead of empowering employees to learn from mistakes, ultimately improving their own and the organization’s performance, mistakes were grounds for dismissal.

The culture of this organization did not give power to its employees to challenge any dominate voice. The dominate voice could be that of a manager or any unspoken organizational rule. To become a learning organization where empowerment really exists, this organization worked on a major cultural shift that included creating supportive structures and working to change the mental models of its people. 

Coaching Inquiries: How are you empowered at work? Does your organization provide a culture that truly empowers its people? What are the organization’s beliefs about making mistakes? How often do you come forth and challenge the dominate voice?

If you would like to learn more about our Organizational Development Coaching programs and to arrange for an initial consultation, Click Here or Email Christina.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Christina Lombardo, PCC, CPCC
LifeTrek Coaching International
Columbus, OH

Telephone: 614-332-9747
Fax: 415-634-2301

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