Although empowerment is one of the most talked about topics in business, it is not always well understood. Mark Dickinson of DONE! Hospitality Training Solutions tackles the misconceptions and highlights the importance of “moments of wonder.”
Do you remember when you caught your first fish or the time you grew muustard seeds on a wet piece of cotton wool? These “moments of wonder” shaped our childhood, but whatever happened to them?
Today’s leaders are busy managing more things than ever before. They are pushed to the limits and are expected to achieve more with less. They have forgotten these moments of wonder, which have now become moments to worry. In the middle of all this, along comes a new team member seeking fulfillment. What do we do?
Empowerment first comes from knowing and understanding the work that you are required to do before being granted the authority or power to do it. Many graduates, however, believe that all the information they have absorbed in higher education entitles them they to be CEO within six months — slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean. While rushing to get to the top, they are not aware that they need to first catch a butterfly or go fishing.
It is these early experiences in life that provide wisdom and depth, and allow for an understanding of what people are doing in their work. This knowledge cannot be forced in a short period of time. There is only one way to gain experience and that is by living something repeatedly. Doing something once is not experience — it is just experiencing. These two ideas can be confusing for newbies entering the market. Because these new entry team members are in a hurry to be “empowered,” they often think that experiencing is experience, and having seen it done once, they believe that they can do it. Mastery takes years; empowerment takes wisdom.
So, how can we wisely empower the new generation? By planting seeds of wonder.
When a person joins a company, it is critical that there is someone on hand to provide them with a meaningful and interesting introduction to capture their imagination. Rather than being properly introduced to those who have already mastered the business, new recruits are often sent to HR. Setting aside meaningful time with the leaders of the business ensures that these young minds have a role model. Repeatedly exposing these individuals to the various vagaries of work and encouraging them to participate in serious decision making helps to set things in motion, not as a one-off gimmick but as a deeply rooted belief within the company.
It must be done by rote. Leaders need to believe that the way to empower new leaders is to first get them to understand what the business does and how it does it. Creating real empowerment requires one to acknowledge that the giving of authority or power (empowerment) to an individual has significant consequences and that empowerment is reserved for those who have first learned the basics, been taught the essentials and have experienced the outcome of that power and authority at work. By genuinely showing these new people what the business is all about, with sincerity and care, they will become ready to shoulder the responsibility of being empowered.
You must show the new leaders the butterfly, let them plant the mustard seeds, walk them through the wonder, and see the amazement in their eyes. It takes the time and effort of those who are called leaders, those who inspire the next generation. The saying goes: “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This has never been more true. When people are full of wonder, their minds expand, their creativity flows and they open up like the wings of the butterfly.