Relationship Power and The Enterprise (part 2): Are We Empowered Yet?Oct 01, 2022
ARE WE EMPOWERED YET?
Today, there’s endless talk about empowerment and providing employees easy access to corporate resources. Yet few corporate people will tell you that they truly feel empowered. This appears to be the case even in some of the so-called “best” companies. The lack of empowerment is chiefly due to a widespread failure at all levels to recognize the hard implications of dramatic organizational changes that have shaped American business throughout the past ten years. There has also been a great failure on the part of most managers to recognize and embrace this call for empowerment; adding to their resistance is their failure to provide resources or training that would enhance empowerment.
No wonder Dilbert and The Office have become so popular, tapping so well the frustration and cynicism of the American worker. One Dilbert comic strip, for example, from a few years ago, says it all. Hanging on a cubicle wall, in the middle of a vast row of nondescript cubicles, Dilbert himself peers into the next cubicle and realizes the worker there is a new recruit. “What are ya in for?” asks Dilbert. The analogy to prison life in this one quick question captures the lack of empowerment felt by many in the workplace.
As management work becomes more like professional-service work, where everyone is managing projects for “clients” internally (as well as externally), managers feel more and more that they are doing more than managing. They can mistakenly associate this daily dynamic with a feeling of non-empowerment. Personal leadership and managing-by-influence is now the prevailing idea, not managing through “title power,” or through authority derived from one’s job title or position in the pecking order. Apparently, this trend will continue, just as our Captain Kirk clearly draws his power less from his authority as commander and more from the loyalty he inspires in his crew. Ulysses, eons ago, had learned this age-old truth.
With business moving closer and closer to warp speed, informal relationships, more than ever, provide professional “glue” and stability. The use of constructive power and influence within these relationships most accurately determines our ability to attain hoped-for bottom-line results. To be really successful at managing- by-influence and at negotiating today’s organizations requires highly developed personal leadership, that is, an attitude of life-long learning plus a set of effective power skills.
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