05 March, 2006

Empowerment

I live in corporate America, and empowerment is one of the older, better established buzzwords. This is also yet another word which does not mean what they seem to think it means.

Empowerment in my group means that anyone on my team can decide to stop a major production release from happening, or can decide to violate policy to make a production release succeed. So far, so good.

The part of empowerment that everyone is missing is that it's my fault. When the VP of Distribution shows up in my boss's boss's boss's office railing about why a Tom stopped a necessary release, it's my fault the release was stopped. Tom, who stopped that release for a nitpicky reason is not at fault. I am, and Tom won't ever have to talk to that VP. When one of my command chain wants to know why, during another release, such and such policy was broken and the release took down three critical systems, it's my fault.

(The two levels of management directly above me follow this policy, too. It's a great place to be.)

Empowerment is always empowerment to make mistakes. If you are not empowered to make mistakes, you are not empowered at all. When someone on my team pulls the trigger on a big decision without consulting me, I have 2 choices. I can either correct them on what is an obvious (to me) mistake, or I can pat them on the back for making a gutsy call and help them pick up the pieces. In case you didn't know this, it's the latter every time.

People are scared by nature. Some people you cannot correct even one time without crippling their ability to make an independent decision. If you want to be the kind of leader that needs to be standing over everyone's shoulder every moment, then go right ahead and correct that mistake. I run a 24x7 shop, and I ain't going to be that man.

The people who work with me are smart. I make sure they know their policies and when to break them, and I know they will play the game straight. I know it, because each of them has stepped in a cowpie a time or two, and none of them has ever done it twice.

When something does go pear-shaped, I tell them the same thing a grizzled, old mechanic once told me. He saw my thumb in a shiny, new gauze bandage and said, "I told you if you ever took that thing out of your butt you'd smash it!"

Words to live by.

So, pastors of America, are your people empowered?

8 comments:

Milly said...

I tell them the same thing a grizzled, old mechanic once told me. He saw my thumb in a shiny, new gauze bandage and said, "I told you if you ever took that thing out of your butt you'd smash it!"

My hubby is a crew chief for the airline I'm passing that on to him. He He. (Won't say more about the first aid kits in the house.)

codepoke said...

Papa was a wild one! He would offer you one of his cookies. If you were silly enough to accept, he would lick the whole cookie and try to get you to eat it.

I was lying under a truck, holding up a driveshaft while he tried to connect it to the back of the transmission. He spent the entire 10 minutes that the job took asking me in flowery prose whether I was going to suddenly give out, and drop the driveshaft on him.

It was a long ten minutes.

Kansas Bob said...

Good post Codepoke! Two thoughts on empowerment:

1) I always made sure that my boss empowered me with a capital 'E' ... the small 'e' is easy to give and doesn't mean very much.

2) Ministry gifts (ala Eph 4) are designed to equip the church not empower it. For a believer Empowerment is from the Holy Spirit!

Blessings, KB

codepoke said...

Kansas,

I loved your comments over at Thinklings. Very, very encouraging. It sounds like your church is well above average in these areas! Praise the Lord. I didn't see them until things had wound down, but cool nonetheless.

Ministry gifts (ala Eph 4) are designed to equip the church not empower it. For a believer Empowerment is from the Holy Spirit!

Nice catch. I do agree.

I still believe there are a lot of pastors who are afraid to let their people exercise their gifts without constant correction. And then they wonder why nobody steps up "like a man." Brothers may be empowered by the Spirit, but they are too often unmanned by the local leaders.

Kansas Bob said...

I still believe there are a lot of pastors who are afraid to let their people exercise their gifts without constant correction.

That is because of their need to control and manage the gifts. It takes effort to pastor people with gifts ... it is a lot easier to retreat into management ... don't need faith to manage :)

MIlly said...

My man didn't laugh as loud as I did. Today he's a sporting a new bandage on his thumb. He HE :-}

codepoke said...

Today he's a sporting a new bandage on his thumb. He HE :-}

That's TOO FUNNY! Did you tell him the line, or actually use it on him? It's funny either way! So sorry. Especially how that he will never talk to me again.

MIlly said...

I read it to him a day or so ago. Today when I got home from work (I use power tools) he had one on his thumb. I almost choked on my lunch, seeing how he had it waiting for me I chose not to say it. I soooo wanted to.