To empower or not empower

For some, the term 'management' conjures up images of a 'caped crusader' type figure, making confident decisions about problems that others bring them. Steadfast in their direction and overseeing the day to day running of their team.

For others the term manager can create a vision of collaborative working, with them part of the team. A 'critical friend' type character that guides rather than directs and supports rather than manages.

So the question is, is there a place for both?

Well the obvious answer would be yes and yet many mangers tend to spend their time at one end of the continuum of the other.

Who's perspective?

From the staff perspective of staff, the manager that maintains decision making can be a

security. It is comfortable to know who is responsible for the decision and a fear of blame can be removed. It can however lead to a sense of helplessness and of feeling under valued.

From the manger perspective it can be the comfort of control that keeps them in this area. They may have access to information that the staff do not and this can help make appropriate decisions.

From either perspective the idea of giving autonomy or empowerment to others can feel 'woolly' and lacks clarity. The notion that groups are better at making decisions because of the sharing of ideas and problem solving assumes that the decisions are based on appropriate knowledge and understanding.

This 'Groupthink' can also fall foul of the need for consensus or harmony in the group and this can ultimately affect the quality of the decision. All this without even mentioning the time it takes.

The power of being valued

On the other hand, one of the powerful influences on motivation, quality of work and staff well being is being 'valued' in the workplace. Empowering others and valuing that they have ideas, problem solving skills, experiences and expertise demonstrates trust from the manager and allows people actually doing the job to have a say in best practice.

From a staff point of view that demonstration of trust can influence commitment and an intrinsic drive to achieve. It also takes away the decision making from just one perspective and opens it to the range that can be the benefit of the 'groupthink'.

Is it what they are used to or what they prefer?

Of course there are those in any organisation that do not want to be empowered and feel safer being 'directed' in what they do. It is worth considering though, if this what they are used to or what they prefer? If that is all they are used to then it is no wonder they try to stick with that approach. Often a manager will attempt to empower a staff member, are met with resistance and give up on the approach. Well even a basic understanding of change and psychology would show that

The coaching manager - working on how to think, not what to think

So the best of both worlds could be in the hands of the 'coaching manager'.

The manager who utilities effective questioning with individuals and teams to work with how they think rather than what to think. The coaching manager would explore outcomes, open dialogue about barriers and alternatives but uses the coaching methodology to ensure that others own the process.

This is not to be confused with 'getting them to think it is their idea'. That is just manipulation rather than a style of management.

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