- Heifetz, Ronald A. Leadership Without Easy Answers The Belknap Press 1994
- Are flaws in decision making causing conflict and poor alignment--a quick diagnostic
- We have a consensus!....?
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While it may seem obvious, it also helped to fully accept that I could not establish a stable state of empowerment with everyone all the time. Even apart from unpopular decisions, feelings of empowerment fluctuate depending on how work evolves, unexpected events, and the way stress can undermine enthusiasm.
Key conditions to sustain higher levels of empowerment
I began to see my role as constantly tending to the conditions which offer the best chances for the most people to feel empowered as continuously as possible. One key condition is to assure that work conversations are safe and honest in order to elicit feelings and concerns and address them through problem solving. In this way, leadership authority is a resource not to demand compliance but to model and assure norms for communication and to assure that difficult issues are discussed.(1)
Another key condition to sustain higher levels of empowerment is assuring that decision-making processes emphasize participation and open dialogue. There is no fixed recipe but here are a few principles for guidance:
- Always consider consulting with others before deciding. Include those who will be impacted and those with relevant expertise. Not only is this respectful but diverse thinking will improve the decision.
- After deciding, meet with people to let them know explicitly how you considered their input. Explain your rationale for the decision in terms of how it serves the vision and avoid language of control.
- Always elicit reactions to decisions. Seek out concerns and acknowledge them as legitimate. Commit to ongoing problem solving to mitigate them but without derailing forward progress.
- Ask for people to help design and choose the what and how and timing of implementation.
- Regularly review decision-making processes. Ask for feedback about clarity, timeliness, and quality.
Courage and compassion
Staying engaged with others’ feelings and concerns through open dialogue while also staying the course to desired results by making difficult decisions is emotionally and psychologically demanding. But, if we want empowerment, we have to meet this challenge with both courage and compassion.