Project Practitioners > How to empower people

How to empower people

By Alfonso Bucero

Have you been empowered by anyone? Did you empower anybody? 

Being empowered by others has worked very well for me in my professional career. In my career as a project manager and then as a PM consultant, I served as a mentor for junior and senior project managers worldwide. I learnt some lessons about that and I’d like to share it with you, as a blog reader.

Once you have confidence in yourself and the persons you wish to empower, you are ready to start the process. Your aim need be to hand over relatively small, simple tasks in the beginning and progressively increase their responsibilities and authority. The more analytic the people you’re working with, the more time the process will take.

But no matter whether they are raw recruits or experienced veterans, It is still important to take them through the whole process. The steps I usually use are as follows:

1. Assess people: The first step to do when empowering people is to assess them. If you give inexperienced people too much authority too soon, you can set them up to fail. If you move too slowly with people who have lots of experience, you can frustrate and demoralize them. Sometimes when leaders misjudge the capabilities of others, the results can be comical. For example, we read about an incident from the life of Albert Einstein that illustrates this point. In 1898, Einstein applied for admittance to the Munich Technical Institute and was rejected because he would “never amount to much”. As a result, instead of going to school, he worked as an inspector at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. And with the extra time he had on his hands, he worked at refining and writing his theory of relativity. All people have the potential to succeed. Your job is to see the potential, find out what they lack to develop it, and equip them with what they need. As you evaluate the people you intend to empower, look at these areas: knowledge, skills, and desire. 

2. Be a model for them:  People do what people see. The people you desire to empower need to see what it looks like to fly. As their mentor, you have the best opportunity to show them. Model the attitude and work ethic you would like them to embrace. And anytime you can include them in your work, take them along with you. There is no better way to help them learn and understand what you want them to do.

3. Give them permission to succeed: As a leader and an influencer, you may believe that everyone wants to be successful and automatically strives for success, probably as you have. But not everyone you influence will think the same way you do. You have to help others believe that they can succeed and show them that you want them to succeed. How do you do that? expect it, verbalize it, and reinforce it. When people recognize and understand that you want to see them succeed and are committed to helping them, they will begin to believe they can accomplish what you give them to do.

4. Give them authority: The real heart of empowerment is the transfer of your authority, and influence to the people you are mentoring and developing. Many people are willing to give others responsibility. They gladly delegate tasks to them. But empowering others is more than sharing your workload. It is sharing your power and ability to get things done. People become strong and effective only when they are given the opportunity to make decisions, initiate action, solve problems, and meet challenges. When you empower others, you are helping them to develop the ability to work independently under your authority. As you begin to empower your people, give them challenges you know they can rise to meet and conquer. It will make them confident and give them a chance to try out their new authority and learn to use it wisely. And once they have begun to be effective, give them more difficult assignments.

5. Publicly show your confidence in them: When you first transfer authority to the people you empower, you need to tell them that you believe in them, and you need to do it publicly. Public recognition lets them know that you believe they will succeed. But it also lets the other people they are working with know that they have your support and that your authority backs them up. It is a tangible way of sharing your influence. As you raise up leaders, show them and their followers that they have your confidence and authority. And you will find that they quickly become empowered to succeed.

6. Give them enough feedback: Although you need to publicly praise your people, you cannot let them go very long without giving them honest, positive feedback. Meet with them privately to coach them through their mistakes, miscues, and misjudgments. At first, some people may have a difficult time. During that early period, be a grace giver. Try to give them what they need, not what they deserve. And applaud any progress that they make. People do what gets praised.

7. Ask them to continue on their own:  Your ultimate aim should be to release them to make good decisions and succeed on their own. And that means giving them as much freedom as possible as soon as they are ready for it.

That is the attitude you need as an empowerment professional. Give authority and responsibility, and offer assistance as needed. Empowerment has an incredibly high return. It not only helps the individuals you raise up by making them more confident, energetic, and productive, but it also has the ability to improve your life, give you additional freedom, and promote the growth and health of your organization.

Iy you never empowered people before today is a good day to start, if you aleady did it use your passion and be persistent to give. The benefits of giving are great in any circumstance.

Alfonso Bucero, MSc, PMP, PMI-RMP, PMI Fellow

BUCERO PM Consulting

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