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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Empowerment: As Simple As ABC?

Un-Game Principle:  Things are neither as simple nor as complicated as they seem.

13-11-12 Empowement as simple as ABCIs empowerment simple? Yes and no. Empowerment may be simple, but not necessarily easy. And it may be complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Empowerment, the capacity to direct action on behalf of your cherished concerns, starts with A-ATTITUDE. If your eyes are glazing over, I understand. That assertion has been so overused that we close off all possibility that there’s more to learn about it. “We already know” may be the three most dangerous words in the English language.

The powerful secret to attitude is the deep understanding of our power to choose it. If we’re waiting for the sunny disposition to arise, we’re thrown into darkness.

But what kind of a choice is attitude?

To choose our attitude is to choose who we are willing to be…now…and now…and when tonight becomes…NOW. Moment by moment we have a choice as to who we’re willing to be.  It’s that simple. So why is it not easy? Probably more reasons than I can conjure up, but here’s an important one. We haven’t been taught the distinction “We have feelings. We aren’t them.” Successful people, of course, have learned this. What they may not have mastered yet is actually choosing who they’re willing to be even when they don’t want to be…generous, enthusiastic, supportive, etc.

Notice I said “willing” to be. We can choose attributes of contribution such as courageous, truthful, compassionate, clear, alert, focused, appreciative. We cannot guarantee that we will demonstrate them in action. All we CAN guarantee is to be willing.  We can choose, let’s say, three of the qualities of contribution for this upcoming tough meeting with an employee whose performance we must review. Then we can let those qualities guide our actions. Afterwards we can review our own actions to see how well or poorly we demonstrated them. If we have an attitude of continuous improvement, we’ll learn much from our own reflection. If we keep practicing en route to excellence (Perfection is impossible), we’ll be able to notice how well we’re doing right in the interaction itself, not just after it. Simple, huh? Not easy, right? But with the attitude “I am willing” even when I’m having an “I don’t wanna” fit (“Hey, I just want to kick Sam out the door!”), I will not fail. A winning attitude is mine.

The B of empowerment is BELIEF.  What we believe is not so much a choice, but which one of our beliefs we empower is a choice. An un-accessed driver of excellence is the ability to focus. Focus on what? If we’re stuck in the belief mentioned in the opening, namely that we are our feelings, then we’re quickly thrown into darkness once again. Rather than treating feelings like the comings and goings of the relentless crawl on the bottom of our TV screen, many of us let them determine how we act. We let feelings determine what we focus on and how we execute what we focus on. However, having gotten our mind “right”, that is, let’s assume we have made our first choice…who we’re willing to be right now in this interaction… then we can notice how much sway our thoughts and feelings have over us and realize we have yet another choice. The choice is to focus on a belief that’s more interesting to us than the one that disables us. How about “I value my feelings, and I’m in charge of when I give them permission to determine my actions.”?

It’s a mistaken belief that we can replace one belief for another (a good reason to be very suspicious of our beliefs. Do you have to believe everything you think?!). Beliefs continue to populate our conscious and unconscious mind. You can, and probably will, again pull out the one which doesn’t empower you.  “Sam is a jerk.” The choice you have is not to resign yourself and let your feelings dominate the decision-making landscape. You can realize that focusing on an empowering belief “It’s my job as manager to develop my people. Sam is one of my people.” is not a one-shot deal. You may need to choose again and again until…yes, the time will come…it becomes easier and easier to stay with the empowering belief.

The ability to shift our focus is easy. Try it. Focus first on the words you’re reading right now. Are you doing it? Good. Now shift your focus to any place else in the room? Did you do it? See how easy that was? I hear a “Yes, but…” My answer to you is this: “Could you envision how shifting your focus to a belief that’s more interesting to you, given that you care about management and developing your people, is made easier through practice?

OK. Before you say to me…“Well, sometimes you don’t develop people, you fire them.”…and before I agree with you, let me speak to the C in the ABC of empowerment. The C is COMMITMENT.

Commitment is also driven by the choices outlined so far. In addition it’s driven by deeply-held values, and it behooves us to make those values visible so that we can consciously choose them to guide our choices and therefore our actions. Through the coaching model of the Academy for Coaching Excellence in which I am trained, I got such a tool. Contact me, and I’ll send it to you free of charge. Who are we longing to be in the world? To be an effective communicator? To be an effective manager, mentor, coach? To be a loving family member? A contributor to our community? What would behavior that’s guided by the longing to be an effective communicator and manager look like when you’re focusing on the difficult conversation with Sam?

Well, you’ve chosen your Attitude. You’re willing to be clear, truthful, and courageous. You’ve chosen a Belief you are willing to empower, and when your mind wanders, you’ll refocus it gently by saying to your willful mind: “Thanks for sharing, but I’m more interested in being an effective communicator and manager right now. This will automatically fuel your Commitment to see the conversation through. Simple, huh? But not easy. It may well be that Sam is not right for the job. Would a transfer to a position that’s more suited to his strengths be a win for your team and for Sam? Would letting him go be best? Or could a genuine inquiry into the behavior that’s causing friction reveal surprising facts that could lead to Sam’s development as an outstanding contributor? You’ll never know unless you demonstrate the ABC of empowerment in your own actions. It’s both simple and complex.  Like all the rich things in life we treasure.

Are you interested in a spontaneous role-playing of a conversation you are not yet empowered to have? I’ll do that with the first three people who contact me. We’ll go through the ABC of Empowerment together.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The UnGame , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and will-do teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.