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Empower Yourself

Empowerment has been described as delegation for grown-ups but there is more to it than that. Delegating is something you do to other people whereas empowerment is something people have to do for themselves. Power is what you take, not what you are given.

In essence, empowerment happens when individuals take responsibility for their own lives and development. Central to doing so is the issue of choice; the realization that we always have options to choose between. It is never true to say `there is no alternative'. Of course, there may be some alternatives which are unpalatable or undesirable but there are always plenty of them. It often suits people to assume they have no choice. Choosing involves taking responsibility both for the choice and for its outcomes. The illusion of having no choice is therefore a convenient way to avoid responsibility.

Whilst you cannot empower anyone, other than yourself, there is much that you can do as a manager to create a climate where it is likely your people will get the empowerment message. The more you give your team authority to make decisions and take action, the more likely it is that they will learn how to become empowered. Typical of the lessons they will learn are:

`I can do it'
`I've got nothing to lose'
`Nothing ventured, nothing gained'
`I make a difference'
`I count'
`I assume I'm allowed until I'm told otherwise'
`I can choose'
`There is always an alternative'
`I'm in charge of myself'
`I can change the way I am'
`I'm unique'
`I'm responsible'
`I decide'

These lessons are expressed in the first person singular to emphasize the crucial point that ultimately all empowerment is self-empowerment. Like it or not, your people are empowered. It is just that you need to help them to realize they are.

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