Innovation 500 – Empowerment

To kick things off for July we want to encourage everyone to think about the topic of Empowerment and either send us a blog post from you or your team via email to [kevin.gillick@devon.gov.uk] for inclusion or simply add your comments below.  If you don’t think this is for you at the moment but are interested then sign up so we can keep you informed as we develop.

To give you a flavour we have included 3 posts from different people providing 3 different perspectives.

A post by Dominic.

Change starts with me….. When I think of this statement I think of how I respond to change and its challenges and what I learn from the experience. Life throws us many challenges both professional and personal which we need to deal with. Sometimes challenges can hit you in the face with one challenge after another forcing you to make a change.

There is no plan, no control and often leaving you thinking, how do I respond to this! Can I take much more! The answer is yes you can. It is a mind set. It is tough and although you may not feel like it at the time strength comes from this experience and helps you to deal with this again.

I am fortunate with my health but I have experienced others close to me who have not been so fortunate. My mother in law died in 2013 from cancer after 6 years of fighting this awful disease. During this time she was an inspiration with how she dealt with what was to become an inevitable outcome. My wife took up running to help cope with the changes which were happening and I would run with her.

We now frequently run 13 to 14 miles at the weekend (for pleasure honestly) with a plethora of other exercises classes, swimming and yoga during the week to help compliment the running and our general feeling of health. We have now both run sub 3 hour 50 minutes marathons, a number of half marathons (showing improvements in times) and have other challenges planned. This has required will and determination. It has been a journey but one of discovery which has taught many lessons.

Sport has been a real influence in how we have coped and handled change. We all have our strengths and ways to deal with change and everyone reacts differently and has their coping strategy.

Here comes my analogy…..like running a marathon, change can be planned but there are many factors out of your control. You can choose whether your goal is just to complete it or to finish within a certain time. Either way there is a certain amount of challenges both physically and emotionally. There is no getting away from this. You can plan how far you want to run, how often, and what type of training sessions to do, but you will compete against the weather which is unpredictable (on one run we had rain, wind, snow, hail and sunshine all in one day), injury, (which could be minor or may mean your training goes back a few weeks), and the good old mind games.  Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and bear it, your mind may be telling you to give up but the satisfaction of not giving up is worth it.

So like with change and running my advice is… you need to know yourself, when you can run and when you need to take a break. You know what you can influence and what you cannot. If you are too tired to run and run you are likely to get injured and all the effort you put in is wasted. As with change if it is out of your control the only person you are hurting when getting upset is yourself and maybe those close to you who do not want to see you unhappy.

You can make a difference but maybe this is when the wind has died down, the rain has stopped and the sun comes out. Everything is clear and you can smile despite the long journey, the tough times and the pain and that feels great!

A post by Kevin.

I don’t find writing blog posts that easy, but Empowerment well that’s easy isn’t it?

Empowerment is giving (someone) the authority or power to do something. But is it really  something a manager can give to you, a bit like some kind of royal degree – “I now order you to be empowered!”  Does this make anyone feel empowered? I don’t think so… In the book “Drive” – Dan Pink says this presumes that the organisation has the power and benevolently gives it to waiting grateful employees. This doesn’t sound like a very aspirational buzzword after all does it?

It’s just an extension of traditional command and control, I’m thinking good delegation. So how does empowerment really work, is it about being given something or something being taken away? Can you think when you last felt really empowered – was it at work or in your personal life, what gave you that feeling? Is this feeling more about autonomy and the freedom to act than being empowered?

I think what we are trying to describe is more about creating space to bring all of your self to work, not only the bits to do a functional job, it’s about removing burden some procedures, processes and policies to free up people to use their own judgement to create better services.

The organisation in the future (and now too) needs all of you to be here making the best decisions with freedom to act in it’s best interests. This allows us to change systems not just have power to do something in the existing one. So let’s ditch empowerment it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and have autonomy instead!

A post by Sarah.

quote-TKTiffany Kelly’s fascinating TED talk (linked on the edition) explores the idea of ‘The Importance of Balance in Leadership Energy’.

In it, Tiffany talks about 3 revelations that she had while on a Commonwealth Study Tour to India. These revelations led her to start wondering what industries, communities, and our world as a whole would look like if it was informed by decisions made with masculine and feminine energy.

This question led Tiffany to believe that, historically speaking, infrastructure has stemmed from masculine energy, and that an appropriate response isn’t matriarchy but balance. This belief has been formative for Tiffany, and has led to the establishment of RoundTable.

This month we are exploring Empowerment, and I put it to you that to be empowered you need to have a belief.

Empowerment often comes from having others believe in you, and for others to believe in you, you need to believe in something. A belief that resonates inside you, that is so strong it pushes you to stand up, to explore and to keep questioning. The more you believe, and allow that belief to change your life, the more others believe in you and the more they let that belief change their lives too. Before long you have a community like RoundTable.

quote-TK-2Tiffany and the team at RoundTable have done some incredible work globally to initiate change, fuelled by a core belief. What we believe has a huge impact on both our communities and us as individuals, especially when these beliefs start growing. For Tiffany, this core belief grew from a question raised on a hot evening in India, and this question slowly unpicked a lot of assumptions about how the world works. This led to the foundation of RoundTable.

Questions lead to beliefs, and our beliefs affect how we operate.

I have written previously about the power of questions, and how certain questions take root in our lives, starting quietly in the back of our mind, barely more than a whisper. Over time these questions grow stronger, taking on a voice of their own, unpicking various assumptions we have. These sort of questions inevitably grow into a belief that becomes formative for us.

When you allow that belief to change the way you operate, people notice, and very often start believing in you. Over time a community can form, a community centred on a belief; a community empowering one another to bring change to their organisation, culture and world.

So what do you believe?

Carl Haggerty

All things digital - content, strategy, communications, innovation, engagement, participation, data and people

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